A Taliban suicide bomber struck today near a police checkpoint in the northwestern district of Swabi. Dawn/AFP reports:
A suicide bomber on a motorbike blew himself up near a police checkpoint in Swabi on Wednesday, killing ten people and wounding more than 20, police and hospital officials said.
Police chief Abdullah Jan said the checkpoint was close to a camp set up by a religious political party for a public meeting in the town.
“Seven people died on the spot and three more succumbed to their injuries in the hospital,” he said.
Swabi is a relatively peaceful area of the northwest compared to surrounding districts. Taliban incursions and attacks in Swabi have been minimal; from 2007 to 2010, the Taliban killed a handful of policemen and tribal leaders in scattered attacks. In February 2009 the military launched a limited clearing operation in the district after small Taliban units estimated at between 50 to 150 fighters strong moved into Swabi and neighboring districts. Today’s bombing appears to be the first suicide attack in the district.
The suicide bomber in today’s attack was apparently targeting a rally held by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, an Islamist political party that has supported the Taliban in the past. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the group’s leader and a known apologist for the Taliban and other Pakistani terror groups, was en route to the rally when the blast took place:
The meeting was planned by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) party led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman. The event was cancelled after the bombing.
Rehman was on his way to the venue when the blast happened, party spokesman Jalil Jan told AFP.
“He is safe and the meeting has been cancelled,” Jan told AFP. “We can’t immediately identify the attackers. We don’t know who is involved. But we can say the target appears to be the JUI leadership.
The Taliban occasionally target political enemies, even in groups like the JUI-F, with suicide attacks. For instance, in August 2010, the Taliban targeted and killed Maulana Noor Mohammed, a member of JUI-F, at a mosque in Wana in South Waziristan. Mohammed served as a member of Pakistan’s parliament and had served as a negotiator between the Taliban and the government in the past.