PESHAWAR/ TIMERGARA, April 5: Grenade and suicide attacks on the US Consulate in Peshawar and on a rally of the Awami National Party in Timergara killed 51 people and injured over 120 others on Monday.
Government and security officials said a squad of at least five suicide bombers armed with rocket-propelled grenades, guns and car bombs struck the outer security parameter of the heavily-guarded US Consulate from the main T-junction connecting the city with the cantonment and the highway to Afghanistan.
Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has claimed responsibility for the attack.
“It was a well-coordinated and well-planned attack,” a senior intelligence official told Dawn.
The suicide bombers came in a double-cabin pick-up, two intelligence and a senior government officials said. The first bomber walked towards the outer security post and fired from his automatic assault rifle. He later blew himself up near an armoured personnel carrier.
They said that three other bombers followed closely in tow and one of them fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the APC. The RPG exploded with a big bang but missed the target.
“The attackers used Russian-made RPG-7. It is the most effective anti-tank explosive device. Had it hit the APC, it would have dug a hole in it,” a senior official of the Bomb Disposal Squad said.
The officials said that it was not clear whether security guards deployed inside and outside the US Consulate engaged the attackers. But as the three bombers moved forward, the vehicle carrying them exploded, setting off a huge plume of smoke into the sky.
The security officials said they believed that the three bombers had died because of the explosion near the checkpost.
An intelligence official said the forensic evidence suggested that a suicide bomber inside the vehicle had set off the bomb prematurely which killed his three associates. Two of the bombers still had live suicide jackets on them and BDS personnel later untangled wires and prima-cords and defused the bombs.
Their bodies were badly burnt and beyond recognition. They couldn’t get the time to pull the cords,” the official said.
The explosion left a seven-feet-long and four-feet-wide crater, Sahfqat Malik, head of the DBS, told Dawn. He said that high-quality TNT explosives used in the attack weighed 80-100kg. He said the suicide jackets bore the tell-tale signs of TTP’s involvement, particularly its outfit in the Orakzai tribal region.
The dead included one police constable and two security guards of the Frontier Constabulary. Most of the people killed or wounded were civilians.
No-one inside the consulate was hurt and there was no major damage to the consulate building. The explosions smashed wind-shields of several cars parked inside the consulate.
The three, relatively smaller blasts, were triggered by BDS personnel in order to defuse the explosives, an official said.
He said that an intelligence agency had forewarned the US Consulate of a possible attack. It was not clear whether the consulate had heeded the warning and taken extra security measures, but officials said that senior US diplomats were not in the office at the time of attack.
TTP spokesman Azam Tariq called reporters in Miramshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan, and said the attack was a reaction to military operations and drone attacks in the tribal region. “We will continue attacks on the Americans in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” he added.