Toll rises to 17 in latest Pak attack
Wednesday, 08 October 2008

REUTERS, ISLAMABAD - The death toll from a suicide attack on a Pakistani opposition politician's home rose to 17, police said on Tuesday, a day after the bomber struck in the town of Bhakkar, deep in the central province of Punjab.

Investigators said they found the head of the bomber, and from its appearance he appeared to come from the nearby militant-infested tribal lands.
 
"He was around 30 years-old and looks as if he was ethnic Pashtun from a tribal area. Probably he had links with militants there," Punjab police chief Shaukat Javed said.
 
Violence has soared in Pakistan in the last year, and militancy has spread over most parts of North West Frontier Province and the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.
 
The security scare hit new heights after the Sept. 20 suicide truck bomb attack that killed 55 people and destroyed the Marriott hotel in Islamabad. British and U.N. diplomats have been ordered to send their families out of Pakistan.
 
The latest attack targeted a parliamentarian from the party of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
 
Rashid Akbar Khan Nawani, a member of Pakistan's Shi'ite Muslim minority had spoken out in parliament against a surge in sectarian violence several times recently.
 
Nawani, who had been meeting constituents in the courtyard of his home, was among 22 wounded in the attack, although he was only slightly hurt.
 
Police said it was possible that a Sunni Muslim extremist group could have been behind the attack.
 
"The sectarian factor is also there and we're working on it. We keep our options open," Javed said.
 
Last Thursday, a suicide bomber killed himself and three other people in the northwestern town of Charsadda in an attack aimed at a prominent regional politician whose party is a member of the ruling coalition.
 
Several Sunni militant groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, who regard Shi'ites as their enemy, also share a similar world view to al Qaeda and have forged links with Osama bin Laden's network.
 
Bhakkar town, some 260 km (160 miles) southwest of Islamabad, has a history of sectarian tensions and is close to Dera Ismail Khan, a town at the gateway to the South Waziristan tribal region, a known sanctuary for al Qaeda and Taliban militants.
 
On Tuesday, all shops and bazaars stayed shut while the district administration ordered schools and colleges to close as a precaution against protests or unrest.
 
A spokesman for Baitullah Mehsud, the South Waziristan-based leader of the Pakistani Taliban, issued a denial, and blamed shadowy figures trying to divide the tribesmen.
 
"Tehrik-e-Taliban is not involved. It is the work of those powers who have formed a lashkar (tribal militia) in the cities to create a rift among Muslims," the spokesman Wali-ur-Rehman told Reuters by telephone.

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