US shuts Peshawar mission in Pakistan after threat
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Mar 28 (Reuters) The United States has temporarily closed its consulate in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar after the mission received a threat, the US embassy said today.
''They received a specific and credible threat,'' embassy spokeswoman Nida Emmons told Reuters in Islamabad, without elaborating on the nature of the threat at the mission in the capital of North West Frontier Province.
Emmons said the consulate had been closed ''until further notice'', while US and Pakistani authorities coordinated on security measures.
''They may have received bomb threats, but the threat was not so great for them to take such a drastic step,'' said Malik Zafar Azam, a Law Minister in the Islamist-led provincial government.
NWFP's provincial government is led by an anti-American Islamist alliance, and anti-American sentiments have been further stirred by the conflict in adjoining tribal regions straddling the Afghan-Pakistan border, where Pakistan, Afghan and US troops are fighting Taliban and al Qaeda-inspired insurgents.
Azam suspected the mission's closure could possibly have been ordered in anticipation of some action by the United States that could provoke a backlash.
''There is something suspicious going on. Something they do not want to tell the public. We feel it is an indication of some big danger ... We are looking into this carefully,'' he said.
The United States has maintained its consulate in Peshawar since the 1950s mainly because of the strategic importance of the region during the Cold War and because it lies on the main overland route to Afghanistan.
The consulate was particularly busy during the 1980s when the United States covertly funded a guerrilla war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
REUTERS DKS BST1612