ISLAMABAD: A suicide bomber blew himself up as he tried to storm the house of a member of Pakistan’s ruling coalition yesterday, killing four people but missing the politician, officials said. The blast in the troubled northwestern town of Charsadda highlighted the threat posed by Taleban and Al-Qaeda militants to Pakistan’s new government in the wake of the bombing of the Islamabad Marriott Hotel last month.
It happened as Asfandyar Wali Khan, head of the Awami National Party (ANP), was visiting a guest in a room attached to his house during celebrations of Eid Al-Fitr. “I saw the bomber come between us and security personnel as a crowd was leaving my house. He was hit by a bullet from the side, but he continued to walk toward me,” Wali Khan told reporters after the attack. “My own gunman then hit him from the front, but when the bomber kept going my guard grabbed him in a bid to stop him. They fell on the ground and then the blast occurred,” he added.
Television footage showed bloodstained chairs lying shredded on the ground outside the house and people frantically rushing casualties to ambulances. Wali Khan’s party, which supports the rights of ethnic Pashtuns, joined Pakistan’s coalition government led by slain former Premier Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party after winning elections in February.
He vowed that the attack would not stop his party from continuing its opposition to the hard-line Islamist Taleban. “Whether I am dead or I am not dead, I have confidence in my party and party workers that they will continue the struggle,” said Wali Khan, who is also the chairman of the Pakistani Parliament’s foreign relations committee.
Four people were killed in the attack, said Mian Iftikhar, the information minister for North-West Frontier Province, confirming that Wali Khan was the target of the attack. The victims included Wali Khan’s guard, a policeman and a bank manager who was visiting to pay his respects to Wali Khan, police said.
Taleban militants have carried out several attacks on ANP activists in the past, including a bombing at an election rally in Charsadda in February which killed 25 people. “It is highly condemnable. This attack on a leader of big stature is an attack on Pakistan,” Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said.
Meanwhile, Pakistani troops backed by artillery killed 25 Taleban militants in the latest clashes in the troubled tribal district of Bajaur on the Afghan border, officials said yesterday. Gunbattles erupted overnight and continued until late yesterday after militants attacked security checkposts in four villages in the restive region, a security official told AFP. “There were fierce clashes and we have reports of 25 militants being killed” in the villages of Rashakai, Tang Khata, Bai Cheena and Khazana, the official said on condition of anonymity. There was no way to independently verify the toll.
Separately, the local government has ordered Afghan refugees in Bajaur to leave the area within three days, a government official told AFP. There are an estimated 70,000 Afghan refugees in Bajaur, who have been living there since the late 1970s after fleeing the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Courtesy Arab News