Pakistan: Top U.S. Diplomat Escapes Gun Attack

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Gunmen fired on a vehicle carrying a top U.S. diplomat in Pakistan's militancy-plagued northwest Tuesday morning, but no one was hurt or wounded, officials said.

Meanwhile, a bomb exploded at a political rally in southwestern Pakistan, wounding at least 20 people, police said.

The attack on the diplomat in Peshawar, the capital of the North West Frontier Province, came a day after the government announced a ban on the Pakistani Taliban, the umbrella militant group said to be behind a recent string of suicide bombings and other assaults.

It also came hours after the ruling coalition collapsed, a fracture that could strengthen a party considered more in line with U.S. goals in the war on terror.

Lynne Tracy, the principal officer for the U.S. consulate in Peshawar, was "100 percent safe," police official Riaz Khan said.

Police official Mohammad Nabi said the driver managed to reverse the vehicle and reach the residence of the U.S. official.

The U.S. Embassy provided few details, saying only that there was a "security incident" involving three consulate employees. It would not name or describe the employees.

"There were no injuries and minimal damage to the vehicle," spokesman Lou Fintor added. "We are coordinating with Pakistani authorities in investigating the incident."

Militant activity is rampant in parts of northwest Pakistan, though mainly in tribal regions where U.S. officials say insurgents have found safe havens from which to plan attacks on American and NATO forces across the border in Afghanistan.

Peshawar, a bustling, dusty city, has not been immune, and concerns about militant activity in and around it prompted the government to stage a paramilitary offensive in neighboring Khyber tribal region earlier this year.

Such offensives — including continuing army operations in the Bajur tribal region and the Swat Valley — have angered the Pakistani Taliban, who have vowed retaliation.

Last week, the militant group claimed to be behind a twin suicide bombing at a weapons manufacturing complex near the federal capital, Islamabad, that killed 67 people.

In Pakistan's southwest Baluchistan province on Tuesday, a bomb rigged to a motorcycle parked near the stage of a political rally in the town of Jaaferabad wounded at least 20 people, some critically, police official Nazir Ahmad said.

Ahmad said the injured belonged to the party of Nawab Akbar Bugti, who died in 2007 when a cave in which he was hiding collapsed during a military operation against him. Bugti was a former Baluchistan governor and had led a violent campaign to pressure the central government to give his impoverished province a larger share of money for natural resources extracted from it.

The recent attacks indicate an escalation in militant activity just as the country's ruling coalition has crumbled.

The main ruling Pakistan People's Party is expected to cobble together a new coalition now that its key junior partner has quit, avoiding the need for another general election.

The Pakistan People's Party, long led by slain ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, moved almost immediately to calm U.S. fears that the government is paying too little attention to extremism, banning the Taliban group and demanding they surrender their arms.

Bhutto's widower and political successor, Asif Ali Zardari, has announced he will run for president, and he is expected to win easily. The party submitted his nomination papers Tuesday.