Monday, September 3, 2012

Peshawar - U.S. Consulate Employees Attacked By Suicide Bomber

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Once again, U.S. government employees overseas have survived a terrorist attack thanks to the heavily-armored vehicle in which they were riding. Dollar for dollar, the State Department's armored car program may have prevented more deaths and injuries than any other physical countermeasure out there.

Note the vehicle frame is largely intact, although burned-out

Also note the distance between bomb crater and vehicle

The most complete news story on today's attack that I've seen so far is from the New York Times (here):

There were conflicting reports about the number and nationality of the casualties. Pakistani officials said that at least two people were killed and at least 13 were injured, including two police officers. The United States 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 condition of anonymity, said that an American backup vehicle immediately retrieved the four who were wounded inside the S.U.V. and took them to the consulate. The official said two Pakistanis were killed outside the vehicle.

-- snip --

The American vehicle had left the heavily guarded and fortified consulate building and was passing a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees guest house on Abdara Road when it was rammed by a vehicle containing at least 200 pounds of explosives, according to police officials. A thick plume of smoke rose over the site after the explosion that could be seen a mile away. The blast left a five-foot-wide crater in the road.

The last time a U.S. consulate vehicle in Peshawar was bombed was May of 2011 (here), and all employees survived that one, too. In that incident, the bomb was planted along the side of the road and detonated remotely when the consulate vehicle passed by.

Today's attack used a suicide bomber to drive an improvised explosive device directly at our vehicle and detonate against it while both vehicles were moving. That escalation in tactics indicates that the Taliban - who are the most likely culprits, although no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack - are capable of learning lessons and adapting to what they perceive of U.S. government countermeasures.

Various Pakistani reports have added interesting nuggets of information beyond what was in the NYT's story:

-- The attack took place at about 9 AM this morning
-- The consulate vehicle was being escorted by three police vehicles
-- The vehicle was en route from the consulate to the nearby American club, according to one of the escorting police drivers
-- An official of the police bomb disposal squad was quoted saying the vehicle bomb was assembled out of military munitions (mortar shells); if so, then it had much higher explosive force than a typical improvised device
-- The bomb was reported to be 100 kilos (220 pounds) in size; such estimates are highly speculative, however, I can believe it was that big by the distance that the U.S. vehicle appears to have been blown off the road
-- The Pakistani driver of the consulate vehicle told local news media that he was knocked unconscious by the blast, but recovered in a few minutes

The tactic of using a suicide bomber against a vehicle in motion is not new. It was used in Karachi in 2006 to attack a U.S. consulate vehicle, killing a U.S. citizen employee, David Foy, who was transiting from his home to the office, as well as a locally engaged employee who was driving, and a Pakistani Army Ranger who was manning a checkpoint outside the consulate. That was the last fatal attack on a U.S. government employee in Pakistan.

The same tactic was used in 2002, again in Karachi, to kill eleven French naval engineers who were in transit from their hotel to their workplace.

More details about today's attack will eventually be released, I'm sure. But for now this looks like a favorable outcome, and one that we can credit to the RSO's security programs, as well as to the Department's huge investment in armored vehicles.

Note: If you are looking for local news coverage of today's incident, this Pakistani Geo TV clip has the most comprehensive video coverage of the immediate aftermath of the bombing:


Anonymous said...

Good post TSB! You are a vehicle pro. What model is that one? "Injured" sounds like a mild word for the occupants. And is the International Club like a place to go relax? gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: Diplopundit adds what I was wondering.... Peshawar conditions are so dire for diplomats that they are classified. gwb

TSB said...

GWB: I believe that vehicle is, or was, a Toyota Land Cruiser. That's overwhelmingly the most common kind of vehicle used in Peshawar.

The American club ("Khyber Club") is indeed a place you can go to relax. It's owned by the consulate employees recreation association, so it's what DOD would call a non-appropriated fund activity. Imagine that the Alamo had a bar and pool, and that's what the Khyber Club is like.

Conditions for our employees are really, really, dire. Peshawar is the hometown of the Taliban and whatever Al Qaeda remnant still exists, so our very presence there is a provocation to them. Pakistani military and police are under attack themselves, and are unable to provide much security. Unlike in Afghanistan, we have no U.S. military presence to rely on. So, the consulate provides facility and movement security itself, on a budget that DOD would would laugh at.

James said...

I may have messed up my publish, well here goes again. The point of impact/explosion seems to be in the right rear from other photos I've seen. They were lucky! In the first picture past the car down the wall line behind the man stooping over is a guy in a dark shirt and khaki pants with his hands on his hips. He interests me. there are a couple others dressed somewhat the same(behind the car just left of the red helmet).

TSB said...


The four occupants were incredibly lucky to survive the blast. The vehicle held up just long enough for them to get out of it alive.

There were many different police, fire, and military elements at the scene. The khaki pants / dark green shirt is the Northwest Frontier Constabulary uniform. The Constabulary are a paramilitary force made up of Pashtun tribesmen who align with the Pakistani government. Serious ass-kickers.