ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Two American officials were saved by their armored vehicle Friday when it was hit by a bomb in the northwestern city of Peshawar in an apparent revenge attack for the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
It was the first assault on Americans in Pakistan since the May 2 U.S. special forces raid that found bin Laden in the town of Abbottabad in Pakistan’s north.
Passers-by were not so lucky. At least one was killed and 13 injured.
“Unfortunately, while they (Americans) have bulletproof vehicles, the ordinary people of Peshawar don’t,” said Bashir Bilour, a senior provincial government minister.
The Pakistani Taliban, which is closely allied with al-Qaida, claimed responsibility.
“The diplomatic staff of all NATO countries are our targets,” Ehsanullah Ehsan, a Pakistani Taliban spokesman, told reporters by telephone. “We will continue such attacks. Pakistan is our first target, and America is our second.”
Last week, the Pakistani Taliban, in its first act of retribution for the bin Laden killing, claimed a suicide bombing at a paramilitary training center in the country’s northwest that killed more than 80, most of them young recruits.
The two U.S. government employees were on their way to work at the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar at about 8:30 a.m. when the bomb exploded. There were different accounts of whether the bomb was carried on a motorbike, in a parked car or planted on the road, U.S. Embassy spokesman Alberto Rodriguez said.
“The folks in the car saw a motorcycle drive up and then boom. But maybe this guy (on the bike) was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Rodriguez. “Right now, it’s not clear if the bomb was in a vehicle, on a body, or planted.”
The Americans received only minor injuries, the worst of which might be a broken bone in one hand. Their vehicle, a Toyota Land Cruiser sport utility vehicle, was damaged and ended up rammed into a utility pole.
“The jeep was on its way from the American Club to the consulate. When it passed a parked Suzuki car, there was an explosion. Those sitting in the jeep were saved,” Peshawar city police chief Liaquat Ali Khan told reporters. He said investigators believe the bomb contained 110 pounds of explosives.