Image: Bombing site near U.S Consulate in Pakistan
Anjum Naveed  /  AP
A U.S. security official walks next a damaged car at the site of suicide bombings near the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan on Monday. Islamist militants attacked a U.S. consulate in northwest Pakistan with car bombs and grenades, killing three people, hours after 41 people died in a suicide attack on a political rally elsewhere in the region.
NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 4/5/2010 11:46:30 AM ET 2010-04-05T15:46:30

Four militants launched a "well-coordinated" attack on the U.S. Consulate in the Pakistani city of Peshawar Monday but were held off by security forces, officials said.

Quoting the province's governor and Pakistani police, NBC News reported that two Pakistani security guards at the U.S. Consulate were killed in the attack. One civilian and a paramilitary soldier were also killed.

NBC News reported that the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they had sent four suicide bombers. All four militants were also killed.

The blasts came hours after a suicide bomber killed at least 41 people elsewhere in the northwest, officials said.

The attacks underscore the danger posed by militants in nuclear-armed U.S. ally Pakistan after a year of military offensives which have dealt the Islamists significant setbacks.

NBC News reported the militants approached from two different directions in two vans. The vehicles were driven through a heavily guarded police cordon, sparking a gunbattle.

City resident Siraj Afridi told Reuters that some of the attackers "carried rocket-propelled grenades".

"They first opened fire at security personnel at the post near the consulate and then blasts went off," Afridi added.

U.S. officials in Islamabad said the "coordinated attack involved a vehicle suicide bomb and terrorists attempting to enter the building using grenades and weapons fire."

'Well-planned attack'
NBC News reported that the attackers tried to enter the building but did not succeed. No Americans were killed or injured in the incident.

"It was a well-planned attack," a Pakistani intelligence official told Reuters.

U.S. diplomatic missions and staff have been attacked several times in Pakistan since the south Asian country threw its support behind the United States in a global campaign against militancy launched after the September 11, 2001, attacks on U.S. cities.

Dawn television showed shaky pictures of three men, apparently attackers, holding their arms up in surrender when a blast hit the area.

The blasts threw clouds of white smoke into the sky and residents said soldiers had cordoned off the scene and ordered people to remain in doors. Helicopters hovered overhead.

The assault on the tightly guarded consulate followed the bomb blast at a gathering of supporters of an ethnic Pashtun-based political party staunchly opposed to the militants.

Image: Locator map of Peshawar, Pakistan

Earlier, a suspected suicide bomber blew himself up at a meeting of the Awami National Party (ANP), in the Lower Dir district, about 50 miles northeast of Peshawar, killing 41 people, The Associated Press reported.

Police said the bomber tried to get into the ground where the ANP, which heads a coalition government in North West Frontier Province, was holding a meeting but he was stopped and blew himself up.

The ANP, which is also a member of the ruling federal coalition government, is a largely secular party and opposes the militants battling the state.

Pakistani Taliban militants have attacked ANP gatherings before.

'Desperation'
The meeting was called to celebrate the renaming of NWFP, which the party has long demanded. Under constitutional amendments expected to be approved in parliament this week, the province will be renamed Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, in a bid to represent its dominant Pashtun population.

"The Taliban have lost the battle and now, out of desperation, they are carrying out such cowardly attacks," said Haji Mohammad Adeel, an ANP senator.

The long-awaited constitutional amendments, which will also transfer President Asif Ali Zardari's sweeping powers to the prime minister, are due to be taken up in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

The amendments should ease opposition to the unpopular Zardari and promote political stability, analysts say.

Zardari is due to address parliament later on Monday in the capital, Islamabad, where security has been stepped up for the session.

NBC News' Carol Grisanti, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: U.S. officials targeted in Pakistan attack

  1. Closed captioning of: U.S. officials targeted in Pakistan attack

    >> this morning. the u.s. consulate in person war was the target of a terrorist attack today. at least two pakistani security guards were killed. let's get the latest from chief pentagon correspondent jik miklaszewski. good morning.

    >> good morning. the pakistani taliban has already claimed responsibility for this series of suicide bomb attacks against the u.s. consulate there in person war in the northern northwestern part of afghanistan . according to officials there, there were at least two suicide car bombers, another couple of suicide bombers wearing vests. they even attempted to breach the wall of the consulate. they didn't do that. in all six were killed. u.s. officials say there were no americans killed in this, no consulate employees killed in this attack. but that attack followed by only a couple of hour amore serious suicide bombing outsided you peshawar against a pakistani government target in which more than 30 people were killed. now, u.s. intel and military officials say that this indicates that the taliban is feeling the heat . since the first of the year, the u.s. has conducted 22 predator strikes against al qaeda and taliban targets. and the pakistani military is being very aggressive in going after taliban both afghan and pakistan taliban now in that north waziristan area. so these attack could be a product of those military successes against those enemy forces, savannah.

    >> hey, mick, quick question. this is a little off topic but admiral mullin was quoted last week by a couple of different reporters as supposedly saying, he is really concerned about this idea that maybe iran is starting to arm the taliban there. is that getting -- is this something admiral mullin has said repeatedly before? you hear rumors of this, fear of this. but do we have actually evidence that iran is doing this?

    >> for a long time, there were reports of small shipments of weapons coming across-the-boarder from iran into afghanistan . but on his trip there last week, general -- i mean admiral mullin was told specifically that there was a significant cache of iranian-produced weapons that were found there in inside the city of kandahar where the u.s. and nato forces are about to launch a major offensive. he said again that this was not an insignificant event. it involved conventional arms primarily, none of those highly sophisticated ieds that iran had shipped into iraq , but nevertheless, this is very disconcerting if not alarming to u.s. and nato officials. they're keeping a close eye on it.

    >> all right, nbc 's jim miklaszewski at the pentagon for us this morning. thank you.

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