Suicide bomber targets Pakistan minister's house

A suicide bomber blew himself up at the house of a Pakistani minister in the north-western city of Peshawar on Friday, killing four people, police said.

Federal Minister for Political Affairs Amir Muqam, who is also the local head of President Pervez Musharraf’s ruling party, told state television that he was unharmed in the blast.

The attack was the first on a civilian target in Pakistan since Musharraf declared a state of emergency on Saturday, citing a recent wave of Islamic militant violence.

“The bomber wanted to kill me. He came into my residence and clearly I was the target,” Muqam told reporters.

“I am not scared. I have survived two attacks in the past,” he said, adding that his cousin and a former provincial official were wounded in the attack.

An Agence France-Presse reporter saw pieces of flesh, apparently from the bomber’s body, stuck to the wall of the house.
The attacker’s body parts were scattered around the house porch and the lawn.

The bomber blew himself up when police stopped him from entering the house where Muqam was holding a meeting with party supporters and some lawmakers, said his secretary, Mir Nayyar Sarhadi.

City police chief Abdul Majid Marwat said four people were killed, two security officials among them.

Muqam has been closely involved in negotiations to end a Taliban-style rebellion in Pakistan’s north-western Swat Valley, where two paramilitary troops died in a remote-controlled bomb blast earlier on Friday.

A close ally of Musharraf, Muqam once said that the military ruler had given him a pistol as a gift in return for services to the party.

Tension

The attack further ratcheted up tensions in the country, coming at the same time as former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto was placed under house arrest to stop her leading a protest against emergency rule.

Pakistan has been wracked by violence since government troops stormed the al-Qaeda-linked Red Mosque in Islamabad in July, killing scores of alleged militants inside.

A suicide bomber targeted Bhutto’s homecoming rally in the southern city of Karachi on October 18, killing 139 people.

The Interior Ministry said on Tuesday that a record 667 people had been killed and 2 000 injured in “terrorist” attacks, including an unprecedented 43 suicide bombings, during 2007.

Officials said that of this year’s 43 suicide attacks, the highest in the country’s 60-year history, the majority were in mainland Pakistan outside the troubled tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

Musharraf, who seized power in a coup in 1999, has used his controversial military role to push ahead with a United States-backed campaign against Islamic militants in the lawless tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.

The unrest in the tribal belt has spilled over into the former tourist area of Swat, where followers loyal to a pro-Taliban cleric have been fighting security forces for the past month.

The US has said that Musharraf’s efforts against militants are a key factor in continuing to support him despite its criticisms of his imposition of emergency rule.—Sapa-AFP

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