A suicide bomber struck today near the home of a Pakistani provincial minister whose only son was recently killed by suspected Islamist militants, officials said. Seven people were killed and 25 wounded.
Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister of Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province and an outspoken critic of the Taliban, was the apparent target.
He was receiving condolences from visitors elsewhere in Pabbi town at the time of the blast and was safe. Some of his relatives were also receiving mourners at a mosque near the house, but none were hurt, police said.
The attack showed the dangers facing those in Pakistan who take high-profile positions against the militants who have wreaked havoc in the country over the last several years.
Mr Hussain is frequently the official who shows up at the scenes of bombings in the north-western province to condemn the Taliban and allied insurgent groups.
On Saturday, his son, Rashid Hussain, was gunned down in the same area of Nowshera district. Some local media reported that the Pakistani Taliban had claimed responsibility for that attack.
The suicide bomber today was on a motorcycle and was rushing toward the minister’s home when intercepted by security officials, a senior police official said. The bomber, believed to be a young boy, then set off his explosives.
Three police were among those killed by the blast. The victims also included two children.
One was eight-year-old, Aashi, whose father Mehar Rehman beat his chest and railed against militants as her half-burned body lay at the local hospital.
“She was innocent,” Mr Rehman said. “She had nothing against anybody.”
A local hospital official said seven bodies had arrived. Another hospital official said of 25 people wounded, eight were in critical condition.
Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province lies along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan and has experienced a great deal of Taliban violence, including attacks that target government leaders.
The provincial government is led by the Awami National Party, a secular-leaning political group that has been outspoken against militant activity on Pakistani territory. Mr Hussain is one of the party’s most prominent faces.
Though no group immediately claimed responsibility for today‘s strike, Bashir Bilour, a senior provincial minister, blamed the Taliban.
“It is a third world war, and we are the front line,” he said.