Pix: Taliban militants storm Peshawar US consulate
Taliban militants, dressed in battle fatigues, on Monday made a brazen attempt to storm the US consulate in Peshawar, under a hail of gunfire and explosions as a suicide bomber unleashed carnage at a political rally near here, killing as many as 44 people.
Six heavily-armed attackers came in two cars and raked two security check posts of the consulate with gunfire as a series of explosions rocked the cantonment area where the premises is located before they were gunned down by the security forces.
Image: An injured man is assisted at the site of a suicide bomb attack in Timergarah, situated in Lower Dir district of Pakistan's restive North West Frontier Province on Monday.
Photographs: Ali Shah/Reuters
'Fidayeen ready to target Americans'
"The target was certainly the American consulate but they didn't succeed in getting there," a police official said as senior provincial minister Bashir Bilour said the "militants were well-equipped and it was a well-organised attack."
One policeman was killed and another injured in the gun-battle, he said.
Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack with its spokesman Azam Tariq saying, "3,000 fidayeen were ready to target the Americans."
Image: Injured men being assisted at the site of a suicide bomb attack in Timergarah
Photographs: Ali Shah/Reuters
One of the bloodiest days
It was one of the bloodiest days in the province, where government forces are pressing an offensive to force Taliban fighters out of their strongholds in Aurakzai and South Waziristan.
Hours earlier, a suicide bomber struck a political gathering of NWFP's ruling Awami National Party to celebrate the renaming of the Pushtun dominated province as Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa. At least 43 people were killed and 100 others injured in the attack in Timergara in lower Dir.
The blast occurred at a rest house in the market of Timergara, the headquarters of Lower Dir district, where the ANP had organised the rally.
Deputy Inspector General of Police (Malakand division) Qazi Jamilur Rahman and senior ANP leader Zahid Khan confirmed it was a suicide attack.
Image: A man sits weeping over the body of a victim at the site of a suicide bomb attack on Monday
Photographs: M Abdullah/Reuters
Blasts and gunfire rock Peshawar
Sultan Zeb, a middle rung ANP leader, was among the dead and party leader Zahid Khan's brother was injured in the attack.
Several witnesses said they had seen police firing at the suicide bomber before he detonated his explosives.
TV news channels beamed footage of bloodstained bodies lying on the lawn outside the rest house as people carried the injured away from the site.
Security forces cordoned off the area and an emergency was declared in nearby hospitals. Hospital officials issued an appeal for people to donate blood.
A large number of people had gathered for the celebration organised by the ANP, which leads the ruling coalition in the NWFP.
Image: Police and residents stand over victims at the site of the suicide bomb attack
Photographs: Ali Shah