PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into a sport utility vehicle belonging to the U.S. Consulate in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Monday morning, Pakistani and U.S. officials said, in one of the most brazen attacks against Americans in the country in recent years.
There were conflicting reports about the number and nationality of the casualties. Pakistani officials said at least two people were killed and at least 13 were injured, including two police officers. The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad confirmed the attack and said in a statement that two Americans and two Pakistani employees of the consulate were injured. It denied early reports that an American had been killed.
A senior Pakistani government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said a U.S. backup vehicle immediately retrieved the four who were wounded inside the SUV and took them to the consulate. The official said two Pakistanis were killed outside the vehicle.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which took place in Peshawar, the provincial capital of the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, in a residential area called University Town. It is home to the U.S. Consulate general in Peshawar and U.S. diplomats, as well as workers with international aid agencies, some of which have offices there.
Immediate suspicion pointed to the Taliban, who have repeatedly vowed to attack Americans in the country.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, visiting Indonesia, condemned the attack.
“We pray for the safe recovery of American and Pakistani victims, and once again we deplore the cowardly act of suicide bombing and terrorism that has affected so many people around the world,” she said.
The U.S. State Department’s spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, who is traveling with Clinton, said the extent of the victims’ injuries was not immediately known. She said she did not have complete information on casualties outside the vehicle.
“We stand ready to work with Pakistani authorities on a full investigation, so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice,” Nuland said.
The U.S. vehicle had left the heavily guarded and fortified consulate building and was passing a U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees guest house on Abdara Road when it was rammed by a vehicle containing at least 200 pounds of explosives, police officials said.
A thick plume of smoke rose over the site after the explosion that could be seen a mile away. The blast left a 5-foot-wide crater in the road.
Firefighters evacuated the injured and doused the burning SUV, which carried a diplomatic corps registration number. A partially burned U.S. passport was recovered from the vehicle.
Police officials said they had issued warnings of a possible terrorist attack in the city and had stepped up surveillance.