HEADLINES -- April 5, 2010 at 8:43 AM ET
Monday: U.S. Consulate in Pakistan Is Attacked; Deadly Weekend in Iraq
Pakistani soldiers take positions following a huge bomb blast in Peshawar, near the U.S. consulate. (Photo by A. Majeed/AFP/Getty Images.)
Updated 10:37 a.m. ET. | Multiple blasts struck the U.S. consulate in the northern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Monday, hours after a suicide attack at a political rally killed at least 41 people.
The Peshawar attack began around 1 p.m. local time, according to the Associated Press, when a car bomb was detonated at a checkpoint outside of the consulate, followed by rocket-propelled grenades. U.S. officials said militants dressed as security officials tried to make their way inside the heavily-fortified compound but failed. No Americans died in the assault, but at least six people people were killed outside the consulate and another 20 were wounded.
"This attack, and the one earlier today in Lower Dir which killed and wounded many others, reflects the terrorists' desperation as they are rejected by people throughout Pakistan," according to a statement issued by the Embassy.
A spokesman for the Taliban said the militant group was behind the assault, telling Reuters, "Americans are our enemies. We carried out the attack on their consulate in Peshawar. We plan more such attacks."
The attack was the first against a U.S. mission in Pakistan since 2006, when a suicide bomber killed three people outside of the American consulate in Karachi.
Hours earlier, a suspected suicide blast hit a political rally in the town of Timergara in Lower Dir district, the scene of a major offensive against the Taliban last year. The attack targeted the Pashtun Awami National Party which was gathering to celebrate the renaming of North West Frontier Province to Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa.
Both attacks came amid a stepped-up campaign of U.S. drone attacks over the past three months targeting militants in the tribal region of North Waziristan -- also known as al-Qaida's ground zero -- and offered a stark reminder of the militants' resiliency.
"The strikes have cast a pall of fear over an area that was once a free zone for al-Qaida and the Taliban, forcing militants to abandon satellite phones and large gatherings in favor of communicating by courier and moving stealthily in small groups," according to the New York Times.
Dozens Killed in Iraq
Monday's attacks in Pakistan followed a deadly weekend in Iraq that began Friday when at least 24 Sunnis were killed in an execution-style attack just outside Baghdad. On Sunday, another 30 people were killed in Baghdad when suicide bombers struck outside four embassies in the capital. Officials believe the killings were designed to undermine the effort to form a new government in the wake of last month's parliamentary election, won by the coalition of former prime minister Ayad Allawi.
Karzai Criticizes U.S. for Interfering
Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday, for the second time in three days, criticized the U.S. for interfering in Afghanistan's domestic affairs and warned outside meddling risked legitimizing the Taliban resistance.
As the Wall Street Journal reports, "At one point, Mr. Karzai suggested that he himself would be compelled to join the other side -- that is, the Taliban -- if the Parliament didn't back his controversial attempt to take control of the country's electoral watchdog from the United Nations."
Last week, National Security Adviser James Jones spoke to Jim Lehrer and expressed shock about Karzai's recent criticisms of the United States: "It was certainly surprising that it's happening now. In and around the election itself and, as I recall, in the results of the election, in the heat of the moment, there were things that were said alleging certain things one way or the other, but, frankly, I thought we were past that. I know the president thinks we're past it."
Justice Stevens to Retire During Obama Presidency
Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens over the weekend confirmed what many onlookers have long expected: He will retire during the Obama presidency. "I can tell you that I love the job, and deciding whether to leave it is a very difficult decision," Stevens told the Washington Post. But he added, "I will surely do it while he's still president."