Taliban suicide bomber kills Pakistani provincial minister
The Taliban claimed credit for today's suicide attack in Peshawar that killed nine people, including Bashir Ahmed Bilour, the Minister for Local Government and Rural Development of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The suicide attack is the latest against the top leaders of the Awami National Party, a secular political party that has opposed the spread of the Taliban in the northwest and leads the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Today's suicide attack took place as Bilour and other senior ANP leaders and workers were holding a meeting at a private residence in Peshawar, the provincial capital.
"The suicide bomber walked into the house where the meeting was taking place and detonated his vest," Shafqat Malik, chief of the bomb disposal squad, told AFP.
Ihsanullah Ihsan, the top spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, told Dawn that the attack was carried out to avenge the death of "our elder Sheikh Naseeb Khan," a senior cleric at the radical Darul Uloom Haqqani madrassa, or Jamia Haqqani, in North Waziristan. The madrassa, which is the second largest in Pakistan, is run by Maulana Sami ul-Haq, who is considered to be "the father of the Taliban."
Khan was kidnapped and executed in May, and the Pakistani Taliban claimed that the government and military had him killed. In June, Ustad Ahmand Farooq, al Qaeda's media emir for Pakistan, issued a eulogy for Khan and another extremist Pakistani cleric. Khan had openly supported jihad and the Taliban and other terror groups operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan before he was killed [see LWJ report, Al Qaeda media chief laments deaths of 2 Pakistani clerics].
Regardless of the Taliban's rationale for today's suicide attack, the terror group has targeted numerous officials from the Awami National Party in suicide attacks at meetings, mosques, and funerals over the past several years. In March, a suicide bomber targeted Khushdil Khan, who is the deputy speaker of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's provincial assembly and a senior ANP leader [see LWJ report, Suicide bomber kills 15 at funeral in Peshawar].
Although the Pakistani government, led by Interior Minister Rehman Malik, has claimed that the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan is fractured and suffering from leadership problems, the group has been able to launch coordinated strikes throughout Pakistan, including a series of recent attacks that killed eight polio vaccination workers in Karachi, Peshawar, and elsewhere in the northwest. The attacks forced the United Nations and the government to shut down the program, leaving more than 3.5 million children without vaccinations to protect against the disease.