Police: Suicide bomber kills 4, wounds 14 in northwest Pakistan’s Peshawar city

By Riaz Khan, AP
Thursday, December 24, 2009

Officials: Suicide bomber kills 4 in NW Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a busy commercial area full of government buildings in Pakistan’s main northwest city Thursday, killing four people and wounding 14, authorities said.

The attack was the second in three days in Peshawar, and the latest in wave of violence that has killed more than 500 people in Pakistan since October. Insurgents are suspected of avenging a U.S.-supported Pakistani army offensive against the Taliban in a northwest tribal region along the Afghan border.

The attackers have struck a range of targets, from markets popular with women to security checkpoints. Thursday’s attack occurred in a busy sector of Peshawar where buildings housing the state-run airline, a public school and a government insurance company were located.

TV footage from the scene showed shattered glass and debris covering a wide area as security officials flooded the zone.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the spokesman for the provincial government, told the ARY news channel that army installations also were nearby, but that he “cannot say for sure what the target was.”

Police official Arif Khan said the bomber walked up to a checkpoint and detonated his explosives when police approached him.

On Tuesday, a suicide bomber set off explosives at the Peshawar Press Club, a brazen attack on the media in what has long been an unsafe environment for journalists to operate.

The government condemned the attacks but vowed that it will not be deterred in its battle to eliminate the Pakistani Taliban from its soil. The army offensive in South Waziristan tribal region has left hundreds of militants dead, but many are believed to have simply fled to other parts of the country’s lawless tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

Pakistan has boosted security all over the nation, including Peshawar, because it is the Islamic holy month of Muharram, which is often marred by bombings and fighting between the country’s Sunni Muslims and its Shiite minority, authorities said.

Muharram is especially important for Shiites, who stage processions to mourn the seventh century death of the prophet Muhammad’s grandson — an event that led to the split in Islam between the Shiite and Sunni sects.

The culmination of Shiite rites is Ashura, the 9th and 10th days of Muharram, when Shiites stage processions, beating their bare backs with chains and blades, bloodying themselves in a sign of penitence over the death of Mohammed’s grandson, Imam Hussein.

Associated Press Writer Munir Ahmad contributed to this report from Islamabad.

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