At least 20 people were killed and dozens injured in a string of bomb attacks targeting politicians from moderate and politico-religious parties in different parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on Tuesday. The attacks came a day after the Taliban detonated a bomb near a public rally of the Maulana Fazlur Rehman-led Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F in Kurram Agency.
A bomb strapped to a motorcycle went off near the vehicle of JUI-F candidate for PK-43 (Hangu) Mufti Syed Janan on Tuesday. At least a dozen people were killed and over 40 injured in the blast which, according to District Police Officer (DPO) Sajjad Khan, was detonated remotely. He confirmed that Mufti Janan was the target but he remained safe.
“The device exploded minutes after Mufti Janan alighted from his car to canvass for votes in Doaba Bazaar around noon,” Shaukat Ali Shah, DSP Thal tehsil, told The Express Tribune. At the time of the explosion, he said, Mufti Janan was meeting a potential voter inside a shop. The booby-trapped two-wheeler was parked next to his car.
DSP Shah said two schoolchildren were killed and as many critically injured when a school van driving past was caught in the impact of the explosion.
Two security guards of Mufti Janan were also wounded in the blast.
According to DSP Shah, the explosion occurred during rush hour traffic, destroying eight shops in the market. Police reached the spot and shifted the casualties to local hospitals.
Dr Wilayat Khan, the emergency in charge at the District Headquarters Hospital, confirmed that they received 10 bodies and 36 injured. Another four injured were shifted to a hospital in nearby Thal. Dr Wilayat said that eight people, with critical wounds, were referred to hospitals in Kohat and Peshawar.
Shopkeeper Abidullah said he rushed forward to meet Mufti Janan as soon as he stepped out of his car in the bazaar. “He was entering a barber’s shop when the blast occurred. A piece of glass hit me on the face and I fell,” he told The Express Tribune. “Most of the victims were shoppers,” added Abidullah, who also lost a cousin, Sakhi Ahmad, in the blast.
Ehsanullah Ehsan, the spokesperson for the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), denied his group’s involvement in the blast in a telephone call to local journalists. On May 4, the Orakzai chapter of the TTP had distributed pamphlets in Hangu, threatening politicians against campaigning in the area.
The explosion came barely a day after nearly two dozen people were killed and dozens wounded in a Taliban bomb attack at a political gathering of JUI-F candidates for NA-37 and NA-38 in the Sewak area of Central Kurram Agency. Three among the injured died on Tuesday, taking the death toll to 26.
In Lower Dir district, meanwhile, a local leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and his four colleagues were killed in a bomb attack.
PPP leader, Haji Zahir Shah, was en route to Odigram to campaign for his brother Gaji Muhammad Zameen Khan Advocate, PPP candidate from PK-96, when his car was targeted with an improvised explosives device.
According to Gul Noor Khan, DSP Lal Qilla Maidan, a roadside bomb was remotely triggered when Haji Shah’s vehicle drove past the Utala area around 3:50pm. Haji Shah, his three companions and a police guard were killed on the spot.
Haji Shah was a popular local political figure with strong support from the PPP. He was associated with the Awami National Party (ANP) but later quit to the party to join PPP. He was a cousin of ANP Senator Zahid Khan.
TTP spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan claimed responsibility for the bomb attack on Haji Shah and threatened to mount more attacks on ANP, PPP and MQM candidates and workers.
In neighbouring Upper Dir district, Jamaat-e-Islami candidate for PK-93 Malik Behram Khan was attacked with a roadside bomb on Tuesday. Though Khan survived the bomb attack on his car in Warhi tehsil but both his son and driver who were travelling with him, were killed.
Malik Behram was returning to Warhi from the Shero Darra area after addressing a public rally along with his son Abu Bakar and two supporters when his car was attacked with a roadside bomb in the Akhagram area. All occupants of the car were wounded. They were rushed to the local hospital but Abu Bakar died before reaching the hospital, while the driver Ajab Khan succumbed to injuries in hospital.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
Separately in Swabi, a minor was killed and three activists of the Awami Jamhoori Ittehad Pakistan (AJIP) were injured when gunmen opened fire on the convoy of the party chairman, Shahram Khan Tarakai, late Sunday.
Shahram Khan, the AJIP candidate from NA-13, was returning home after addressing a campaign rally of his party’s candidate for PK-35 Syed Afzal Bacha in Bamkhel village when gunmen ambushed his convoy near Lalu Dheri graveyard, according to local police official Fazal Akbar.
He added that 12-year-old Junaid Rahman, travelling in a pickup, was killed on the spot while three men were critically injured. Police registered a case against unknown gunmen and started investigation.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2013.