A Taliban suicide bomber Wednesday rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station in Peshawar, flattening the three-storey building and killing four people, officials said.
Pakistan’s Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in the northwest, their fourth in reprisal for the killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by US commandos north of Islamabad on May 2.
“At least four people including three policemen and one army man in civilian clothes, were killed in the attack,” Liaqat Ali Khan, chief of police in Peshawar, told AFP.
Senior police official Muhammad Ijaz confirmed the death toll.
“It was a huge blast which completely destroyed the three-storey building,” he said, noting that there were usually 10 to 15 people present at that time in the police station.
Rescuers were trying to reach four or five people believed trapped alive in the rubble, Ijaz told AFP.
Police said another 23 people including nine policemen were wounded in the massive dawn explosion inside a protected military zone in Peshawar, the gateway to Pakistan’s militant-infested tribal belt on the border with Afghanistan.
The razed building housed the police Criminal Investigation Department and was located in the Peshawar Cantonment area just 150 metres (yards) from the US consulate. The area houses military families and security is normally tight.
Police said the attack was carried out with a small truck containing at least 200-250 kilograms (440-550 pounds) of explosives, and that body parts were hurled more than 300 metres (yards) away from the blast.
“We will further step up these attacks to avenge Osama bin Laden’s martyrdom,” Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.
He added: “These attacks will continue until the US drone strikes and ongoing Pakistani military operations are stopped in the tribal regions.”
The military rushed to seal off the area around the Peshawar police station after the 4:38 am (2338 GMT Tuesday) blast.
An AFP reporter saw flames from the stricken building, shattered glass on the ground, burning tyres and the charred remains of at least three vehicles, including a small truck.
Medics said nine policemen were among the wounded and the rest of the injured were civilians, including a child.
Last Friday in Peshawar, the Taliban bombed a US consulate convoy using a remote-control device, killing one Pakistani passerby and wounding 11 other people in the first attack on Americans in Pakistan since bin Laden’s death.
Late on Sunday, heavily armed Taliban gunmen stormed a naval base in Pakistan’s biggest city Karachi, destroying two US-made surveillance planes and killing 10 personnel in a 17-hour standoff.
It was the worst assault on a military base since the army headquarters was besieged in October 2009, piling further embarrassment on the armed forces three weeks after bin Laden was found living under their noses.
Bin Laden was killed by US Navy SEALs in Abbottabad, a garrison town north of Islamabad, in a raid that humiliated Pakistan’s security establishment. The militants’ attack deep inside Karachi underlined the military’s vulnerability.
Following the brazen attack in Karachi, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Tuesday in Kabul that he was confident Pakistan’s nuclear weapons were safe, but admitted the issue was a “matter of concern”.
Tensions between the United States and its fractious ally Pakistan have run high since bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks and the world’s most wanted man, was located and killed in Abbottabad.
However, the Pentagon said Tuesday that Pakistan had returned the wreckage of a US helicopter used in the special forces raid.
The helicopter was damaged in a hard landing at bin Laden’s compound and the SEAL commandos deliberately blew it up after gunning down the Al-Qaeda leader, US officials have said.
Militant unrest, much of it in the form of suicide attacks, has killed nearly 4,400 people in the past four years as the Taliban and militants linked to Al-Qaeda wage a bloody onslaught on Pakistan’s US-allied leadership.