Pak­istan Sui­cide Bomb­ing Kills 22, In­jures Min­is­ter

The Washington Post Sunday - - World News - By Riaz Khan

PE­SHAWAR, Pak­istan, April 28 — A sui­cide bomber ap­par­ently try­ing to as­sas­si­nate Pak­istan’s in­te­rior min­is­ter det­o­nated his ex­plo­sives in a crowd sur­round­ing the of­fi­cial Satur­day, killing at least 22 peo­ple and wound­ing 35.

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Aftab Khan Sher­pao was slightly in­jured, and state television showed him walk­ing to his car af­ter the blast with blood­stains on his face and white tu­nic. His son, two se­cu­rity guards and two mem­bers of his staff were among the in­jured.

There was no im­me­di­ate as­ser­tion of re­spon­si­bil­ity for the bomb­ing, but sus­pi­cion will fall on Is­lamic mil­i­tants who have re­peat­edly tar­geted top Pak­istani of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent Pervez Mushar­raf, for sup­port of the U.S.led fight against ter­ror­ism.

The sui­cide bomber struck soon af­ter Sher­pao had fin­ished ad­dress­ing a po­lit­i­cal gath­er­ing at­tended by hun­dreds of peo­ple in an open field in the north­west­ern town of Charsadda.

Faiz Mo­hammed, a jour­nal­ist who was cov­er­ing the event, said the at­tacker got within 15 yards of Sher­pao, det­o­nat­ing the bomb in a crowd that had gath­ered around the min­is­ter as he was about to get into his car. The bomb­ing left a car­nage of body parts and trig­gered a stam­pede, he said.

Women wailed over the body of a child.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors found the bomber’s head, ac­cord­ing to an intelligence of­fi­cial who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause of the sen­si­tive na­ture of his job.

Sher­pao, who was taken to a hospi­tal but quickly dis­charged, ex­pressed sor­row over the loss of life but said he would con­tinue to fight ter­ror­ism. “Such at­tacks can­not de­ter my re­solve,” he said.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the at­tack un­der­scored the ur­gency of the strug­gle against ter­ror­ism.

“It shows ter­ror­ists are out there and ac­tive. . . . It’s a de­ter­mined en­emy out there that wants to cause de­struc­tion, and our de­ter­mi­na­tion needs to ex­ceed theirs,” Fratto said.

An intelligence of­fi­cial said se­cu­rity guards blocked the at­tacker as he tried to get close to Sher­pao, though wit­nesses did not ver­ify that ac­count.

The bomb­ing came a day af­ter an ap­par­ent mis­sile strike killed four peo­ple in the border re­gion of North Waziris­tan, con­sid­ered a strong­hold of Tal­iban and al-Qaeda fight­ers. The U.S. mil­i­tary and NATO in neigh­bor­ing Afghanistan de­nied any in­volve­ment.

It was not clear whether Pak­istani se­cu­rity forces played any role. The gov­ern­ment said — de­spite wit­ness ac­counts to the con­trary — that the dead and wounded were mak­ing bombs and had ac­ci­den­tally caused an ex­plo­sion.

Satur­day’s blast was the most re­cent in a se­ries of bomb­ings that have tar­geted top of­fi­cials since Pak­istan be­came a U.S. ally against al-Qaeda af­ter the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror at­tacks.

In De­cem­ber 2003, Mushar­raf nar­rowly es­caped in­jury in two mas­sive bomb­ings 11 days apart in the gar­ri­son city of Rawalpindi. Sev­en­teen peo­ple were killed in the sec­ond bomb­ing.

In July 2004, a sui­cide bomb­ing tar­geted Prime Min­is­ter Shaukat Aziz as he cam­paigned west of Islamabad, a few weeks be­fore he took of­fice. Aziz was un­hurt in the at­tack, for which al-Qaeda as­serted re­spon­si­bil­ity, but nine oth­ers, in­clud­ing his driver, were killed.

BY MO­HAM­MAD ZUBAIR — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Vol­un­teers take a blast vic­tim to a hospi­tal in Pe­shawar. The bomb­ing in Charsadda oc­curred in a crowd sur­round­ing the in­te­rior min­is­ter.

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