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Pakistani interior minister wounded, 22 killed in suicide bombing

Pakistani interior minister wounded, 22 killed in suicide bombing

A suicide bomber attempted to kill Pakistan's interior minister in an attack at a political gathering in a northwestern town that left at least 22 dead and 35 wounded, officials said.
Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao sustained minor injuries, police said Saturday. Footage broadcast on state television showed the minister walking to his car after the blast, with bloodstains on his face and white shalwar kameez tunic.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, but suspicion will fall on Islamic militants who have repeatedly targeted top Pakistani officials, including President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, for support of the U.S.-led war on terror.
The suicide bomber struck soon after Sherpao had finished addressing a public gathering of his faction of the pro-government Pakistan People's Party, attended by hundreds of people in an open field in the northwestern town of Charsadda.
Local newspaper journalist Faiz Mohammed who was covering the event said the attacker got within 15 meters (yards) of the minister _ detonating the bomb among a crowd that had gathered around the minister as he was about to get into his car to leave.
He said the bombing left a carnage of limbs and body parts, and triggered a stampede.
"When the dust settled, I saw my clothes were stained with human brain, flesh and blood," said Mohammed, who suffered a slight leg injury.
Sherpao later expressed sorrow over the loss of life. "Such attacks cannot deter my resolve in the fight against terrorism," he told reporters.
An intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of his job, said security guards blocked the attacker as he tried to get close to Sherpao, but witnesses did not verify that account.
Mohammed Khan, a police official, said the minister was shifted to a hospital in the city of Peshawar, which lies about 30 kilometers (18 miles) to the south. He was soon discharged and returned to his Peshawar home under tight security.
Asif Iqbal Daudzai, spokesman for the government of North West Frontier Province, said the attack killed 22 people and 35 wounded, but Mohammed, the local journalist, estimated about 50 wounded. Khan said at least 10 of the wounded were in critical condition.
Most of victims were local people, but the dead included two staff members and two security guards of Sherpao and two police, officials said.
The son of Sherpao, Sikandar Khan Sherpao, and some lawmakers and security officials were among the injured, Khan said.
Saturday's attack in Charsadda is the latest in a series of bombings that have targeted top officials since Pakistan became a Washington ally against al-Qaida in late 2001.
In December 2003, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf narrowly escaped injury in two massive bombings 11 days apart in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. Some 17 other people were killed in the second bombing.
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Associated Press writer Munir Ahmad in Islamabad contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-08-03 03:34 GMT+08:00