ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — At least two people were killed Monday when a suicide car bomber rammed into a U.S. government vehicle in northwest Pakistan, a brazen attack on Americans working in a city perched on the edge of the country’s militant-infested tribal areas.
The vehicle belonged to the U.S. consulate in Peshawar and was attacked as it traveled through University Town, an upscale Peshawar neighborhood where several international organizations maintain offices. No U.S. citizens or staff members of the American consulate were killed in the blast, but two American staff members and two Pakistani nationals who work at the consulate were injured, said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
A total of 19 people were injured in the attack, Pakistani authorities said. The identity of the two people killed has yet to be released.
[Updated Sept. 3, 9 a.m.: Authorities later raised the number of injured to 21 and said both the dead, who remained unidentified, were Pakistanis.]
Roughly 220 pounds of explosives, including artillery shells, were packed into the suicide bomber’s car, said Shafqat Malik, inspector general of Peshawar’s bomb disposal squad. The massive impact of the blast engulfed the consulate SUV in flames and left a gaping crater in the asphalt. Footage from Pakistani television showed the charred frame of the SUV against a brick wall by the side of the road.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack as of Monday afternoon.
Nuland said the U.S. is ready “to work with Pakistani authorities on a full investigation so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.”
Many of the suicide bombings and other terror acts in Peshawar have been carried out by the Pakistani Taliban, the domestic insurgent group that for years has been attacking Pakistani security installations along with markets, mosques and other civilian targets. In recent years, the Pakistani Taliban has expanded its agenda to include the West, and was involved in providing training and logistical support for a U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent who botched an attempt to detonate a car bomb in New York’s Times Square in 2010.
Despite the continued presence of Al Qaeda-linked militants in northwest Pakistan and the intense anti-American sentiments that pervade Pakistani society, terror attacks against American government entities within Pakistan remain relatively rare, largely because of extensive security measures the U.S. employs at its offices and compounds.
The last attack on U.S. consulate vehicles in Peshawar occurred in May 2011, when a car bomb detonated by remote control targeted a convoy of two American armored vehicles in the University Town area, killing a Pakistani bystander. No American personnel were killed in the blast. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack.
In April 2010, Taliban militants wearing suicide bomb vests and armed with automatic rifles and grenades carried out a commando-style raid on the heavily fortified U.S. consulate compound in Peshawar. The attackers never penetrated the facility, but five security personnel guarding the compound were killed.
— Alex Rodriguez. Special correspondent Zulfiqar Ali in Peshawar contributed to this report.
Photo: Pakistani rescuers and security personnel gather at a bomb blast site in Peshawar. Credit: A Majeed / Getty Images