Pakistani provincial minister escapes assassination attempt
A senior political leader of Pakistan's violent Northwest Frontier Province narrowly escaped an assassination attempt on the streets of Peshawar.
Bashir Bilour, the Senior Minister for the Northwest Frontier Province and a senior leader in the ruling Awami National Party, was attacked by a Taliban assault team as he toured the Salt Market in the provincial capital.
There are conflicting reports on the exact nature of the attack. Geo News reported that Bilour's security detail opened fire after they "saw five armed men approaching the senior minister." The Press Trust of India reported that the security detail opened fire after "two suicide bombers emerged from a crowd" and attempted to attack Bilour.
Three civilians, including two women, were killed in the aftermath of the attack. PTI said that the two suicide bombers killed two women and wounded four other civilians after the bombers fled the scene of the attack and detonated their vests in a home after a gunfight with police.
Today's attack is the latest in a series of Taliban strikes against government institutions in Peshawar. The Pakistani military claimed to have ended the siege of Peshawar, despite a rash of deadly attacks on police outposts in the provincial capital.
Bilour was the target of an assassination attempt on Nov. 11, 2008. A suicide bomber targeted Bilour and Governor Owais Ahmed Ghani as they left a soccer stadium in Peshawar. In October 2008, Taliban spokesman Mullah Omar said senior leaders in the ANP, including Bilour and Ghani, are on the list of public figures targeted for assassination.
The ANP is an ethnic Pashtun political party that controls the government of Northwest Frontier Province. The party is opposed to military action against the Taliban and advocates a peaceful end to the fighting in Pakistan's northwest. The party has backed peace agreements with the Taliban in the past. Most recently the party has endorsed peace agreements in Swat and Bajaur, and agreed to the implementation of sharia, or Islamic Law in the districts of Swat, Malakand, Dir, Chitral, Buner, Shangla, and Kohistan.
The ANP has been the target of multiple Taliban attacks over the past year. The Taliban conducted two major strikes against ANP offices in North Waziristan and Kurram the week before the February 2008 elections, killing and wounding scores of its members.