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Taliban blast hits US vehicle in Pakistan

2 Americans hurt in retaliation for bin Laden raid

By Riaz Khan and Nahal Toosi
Associated Press / May 21, 2011

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PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A Taliban car bomb struck an armored vehicle taking American government employees to the US consulate in northwest Pakistan yesterday, in a strike the militants said was to avenge the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

A Pakistani passerby was killed and two Americans suffered minor injuries in the attack in the city of Peshawar, officials said. At least 10 other Pakistanis were wounded. The strike was the first on Westerners since the May 2 US commando raid on bin Laden’s hideout in an army town around three hours from Peshawar.

The Pakistani Taliban, an Al Qaeda-allied group behind scores of attacks in recent years, claimed responsibility.

“We say to the Americans and NATO that we will carry out more deadly attacks and we can do it,’’ Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan said in a phone call from an undisclosed location. “We had warned that we will avenge the martyrdom of Osama.’’

The Americans were traveling in two cars from their homes to the heavily protected consulate building when a car bomb exploded nearby, said US Embassy spokesman Alberto Rodriguez and police in the city. The Americans in the car that was hit were whisked away from the scene in the second vehicle. The most serious injury was a possible broken hand, he said.

Rodriguez had initially said that yesterday’s attack was carried out by a suicide bomber, based on accounts from witnesses. He later said it was a planted explosive device of some kind. Pakistani police said it was a car bomb, presumably detonated remotely.

Rodriguez declined to say what job the Americans held. The consulate is home to diplomats, security contractors, and — it is widely believed — CIA staff hunting Al Qaeda and associated groups. The consulate building and a previous top officer there have been attacked in the past.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said US diplomatic security agents were assisting Pakistani authorities in investigating the attack.

The US raid that killed bin Laden in Abbottabad badly damaged Pakistani-American relations, which were already frayed since January, when a CIA contractor killed two Pakistanis in Lahore. That incident prompted Pakistan to demand a reduction in US military personnel in the country and infuriated the Pakistani Army over what it claims are American spies operating in the country.

Peshawar is just outside Pakistan’s tribal regions, where Al Qaeda and the Taliban have bases.

The city has witnessed many of the suicide and other bombings that have scarred Pakistan over the past five years, the vast majority against Pakistani government and security force targets. Foreigners in Pakistan have also been targeted, but not nearly as much.

Last week, the Pakistani Taliban killed more than 80 Pakistani recruits for a paramilitary border force in double suicide attacks close to Peshawar. They said those blasts were also in revenge for the death of bin Laden.

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