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Rediff.com  » News » Pak interior minister hurt, 30 killed in NWFP blast

Pak interior minister hurt, 30 killed in NWFP blast

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Last updated on: April 28, 2007 23:02 IST

Pakistan's Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao and his son were injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up at his public rally, killing 30 people and wounding 50 in North West Frontier Province on Saturday.

Interior Secretary Kamal Shah said Sherpao and his son Sikander, also a member of Parliament, were slightly wounded in the suicide attack, that took place at Charsadda, the hometown of the minister, about 40 minutes drive from NWFP capital Peshawar.

They were out of danger and had been shifted to their residence in Peshawar, he said.

State-run PTV showed that Sherpao, with injuries on his face, looked stable and walked towards the car accompanied by his supporters.

Shah said the death toll was already 17 from the suicide attack, while NWFP province police chief Sharif Virk said three of the wounded brought to a hospital in Peshawar also succumbed to their wounds.

However, local journalist Sabz Ali, who was present at the blast site, said he saw more than 30 bodies lying around.

"It was a suicide bomb attack and the head of the suspected bomber has been found. He appears to be of Afghan origin," Virk told PTI.

Ali also said he saw a suicide bomber rushing towards Sherpao after the meeting ended. The explosion took place when the minister was walking towards his official car.

Sherpao, who has been in the forefront of an anti-terrorism drive, was saved by his supporters who surged towards him to greet him just before the blast took place.

Most of the killed were those who had rushed to greet him.

Television footage immediately after the blast showed that a number of bodies were strewn around.

A few hundred people attended the public meeting. Some other politicians were also present at the rally, but there was no immediate information about them.

President Pervez Musharraf, presently on a foreign tour, and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz condemned the attack.

Aziz called it an act of "cowardice" and ordered local authorities to extend proper medical facilities to the injured.

Some 22 wounded were brought to the Reading Hospital in Peshawar, while the rest have been sent to other hospitals.

Sherpao, a veteran politician and leader of a breakaway group of the Pakistan Peoples Party of Benazir Bhutto has been in the forefront of a drive against militants.

He was also due to attend a joint meeting of the Pak-Afghan jirga (elders council) next week, which was being convened to discuss measures to curb cross-border terrorism in tribal areas by Al Qaeda and Taliban-trained militants.

Sherpao was considered to be high on the hit list of Islamic militants next to Musharraf and Aziz, both of whom had survived suicide attacks in the past.

A mild-mannered politician, Sherpao in the recent years emerged as a close confidant of Musharraf.

Saturday's bombing took place at a time when pro-Taliban militants in Waziristan tribal region were threatening suicide attacks in the name of Pak-Taliban while in capital Islamabad, radical clerics along with madrassa students began a campaign to impose Shariah law, putting the government in a piquant situation.

Sherpao himself was closely involved in negotiations with militant clerics both in Waziristan and Islamabad.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Satuirday's blast, but Islamic militants have carried out such attacks in the past.

In December 2003, Musharraf narrowly escaped injury in two bombings 11 days apart in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

In July 2004, a suicide bombing claimed by Al Qaeda targeted Aziz, who escaped unhurt but nine others were killed.

Officials said the dead in Saturday's bombing included two security guards of Sherpao. At least 10 of the wounded were in a critical condition, they said.

A spate of suicide bomb blasts rocked Pakistan since January 2007, with the first taking place at an Islamabad hotel hours before the Indian High Commission was to host a Republic Day reception on January 26.

Peshawar has been the scene of many suicide attacks and blasts since last year and just before Muharram, some 15 people, including the city police chief, were killed in a bomb explosion near a mosque.

Other towns of the province, which is ruled by the Islamist alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, have also witnessed an upsurge in sectarian violence and terrorist attacks as security officials say Islamic militants opposed to the rule of Musharraf are trained and carry out their activities from the tribal belts of the province.

K J M Varma in Islamabad
© Copyright 2013 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.

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