PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A suicide bomber rammed a car filled with explosives into a U.S. government vehicle in northwestern Pakistan on Monday, killing two Pakistanis and wounding 19 others including two Americans, officials said.
The attack in the city of Peshawar was a vivid reminder of the danger U.S. officials face while working in Pakistan, especially in the country’s northwest where Taliban and al Qaeda militants are strongest.
Insurgents have carried out scores of bombings in Peshawar in recent years, but attacks against U.S. targets have been relatively rare because of the U.S. government’s extensive security measures.
The bomber struck the armored vehicle after it left the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar and as it was traveling through an area of the city that hosts various international groups, including the United Nations, said police Officer Pervez Khan, who was part of the security escort for the vehicle as it moved.
The attack killed two Pakistanis and wounded 19 other people, said senior police Officer Javed Khan.
Two Americans and two Pakistanis working at the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar were among the wounded, said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, who called the attack a “heinous act.”
The wounds to the Americans were not life-threatening, a U.S. Embassy official said on the condition of anonymity because the information had not been officially released.
The charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy, Richard Hoagland, praised Pakistani security forces for saving the lives of the four consulate employees.
“In this dangerous world where terrorists can strike at any moment, we must all work together — Pakistanis and Americans alike — because we have a strong mutual interest in defeating terrorism,” he said.
The car driven by the suicide bomber contained 240 pounds of explosives, Pakistani police Officer Abdul Haq said.
The blast ripped apart the sport utility vehicle carrying the U.S. Consulate employees and triggered a raging fire. Rescue workers and local residents rushed to put out the fire and pull away the dead and wounded.
All that was left of the SUV in the end was a carcass of blackened, twisted metal.
American drones have fired scores of missiles at the militants’ hideouts in Pakistan in recent years, and Washington has given the Pakistani military billions of dollars to fight the extremists.
Islamist militants have targeted U.S. assets in Peshawar, which is about 85 miles from the capital of Islamabad, on several occasions in recent years.