PESHAWAR - A suicide bomber on Friday targeted Frontier Constabulary (FC) top commander, killing 12 people and injuring 28 others near the US consulate in Peshawar.
A security official said FC Commandant Abdul Majeed Marwat, who heads the paramilitary police in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, survived the attack and was taken to a military hospital with ‘only scratches’.
It was the latest in a string of attacks as the country prepares to hold historic elections on May 11. In August 2010, the then FC Commandant Sifwat Ghayur was killed in a similar suicide attack on his convoy in the same area.
“It was a suicide attack, the target was the FC commander,” police official Arshad Khan said. Witnesses said the bomber was on foot and struck when the convoy of the police chief stopped at a military checkpost in the busy cantonment area. The checkpost is about 300 metres from the heavily guarded American consulate, which has itself been the target of attacks in the past.
“We have received six dead bodies, including two women,” Sayed Jameel Shah, a spokesman for Lady Reading Hospital said. He later confirmed that two of the injured died in hospital. “They were in serious condition in the neurosurgery ward,” he said. Another four bodies and 17 other wounded were taken to the Combined Military Hospital, a senior security official said.
Among the dead were FC personals Tajamul and Ashfaq Khan, Lance Naik Babar, Anees Khan, Manzoor Hussain, Alamzaib, a three months old child, a 12 years old girl and a woman. The wounded were a mixture of civilians and military personnel. Those identified were: FC men Arshad, Irfan Abbas, Jandad and Rehman Saeed, and civilians Rawais Khan, Amir Khan, Samiullah, Zahir, Shah Khalid and Jan Dad.
Splashes of blood lay on the ground and a reporter saw a pair of legs, presumed to be that of the bomber. The blast damaged two motorcycles and four cars, including Marwat’s vehicle. Nearby shops and commercial buildings were also damaged in the explosion.
Umar Din, 21, a rickshaw driver, said the force of the explosion flipped his rickshaw onto the ground. “I came out and saw my passenger bleeding,” he said. “I picked up the passenger on my shoulder and ran to a safer place, it was horrible, people were bleeding and crying,” he added.
Rescue efforts continued for a few hours and police, after the incident, cordoned off the area. The bomb disposal squad said approximately 10 kilograms of explosives were used in the blast. There was no immediate claim of responsibility but police, soldiers and paramilitary units are frequently targeted by the Taliban, who have been fighting an insurgency since July 2007.
President Asif Ali Zardari Caretaker Prime Minister Justice (r) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shaukatullah Khan strongly condemned the attack, reiterating the national resolve to wipe out terrorism from the country. The PM also directed the local authorities to provide best medical facilities to the injured.
There are fears that rampant insecurity could prove a major challenge for the elections, not least in Peshawar, a key electoral battleground and home to 2.5 million on the edge of the tribal belt, a Taliban and al-Qaeda stronghold. The relatively nearby Tirah Valley has offered umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban a new base in the tribal district of Khyber, beyond the reach of ground troops and posing a heightened threat to Peshawar.
On Tuesday a girls’ school teacher was shot dead in Khyber and last Saturday a suicide attack killed 17 soldiers in North Waziristan, the most notorious of the seven districts that make up the semi-autonomous tribal belt.
On March 21, a car bomb killed 17 people at Jalozai, the country’s largest refugee camp, as scores of people queued for rations, just outside Peshawar. Pakistan says more than 35,000 people have been killed as a result of terrorism in the country since the 9/11 attacks on the United States.