Pakistan probes suicide bombing at legislator’s house


Wed, Oct 08, 2008 - Page 5

Police yesterday investigated the residence of a lawmaker in central Pakistan where an overnight suicide bombing killed at least 20 people and wounded 60 others, officials and media reports said.

A young suicide bomber blew himself up on Monday after sneaking into the family home of Rashid Akbar Niwani, in Bhakkar town in Punjab, the country’s most populous province.

Niwani, a member of Pakistan’s Shiite Muslim minority, had spoken out in parliament against a surge in sectarian violence several times recently. He was among those wounded in the attack, although he was only slightly hurt.

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.

“We have taken biological samples of the bomber which will be helpful in obtaining DNA fingerprints to identify him,” said Ahmed Kamal, a senior security official in the area.

The bomber was apparently among a small group of people who entered the house without security checks when the gates were briefly opened for a vehicle carrying Niwani, said Dawn, an English-language newspaper.

Niwani, who joined the party of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif after his election in the Feb. 18 vote, was slightly injured in the attack.

All markets and government departments were closed in Bhakkar yesterday to mourn the deaths and prevent unrest.

Expressing “deep grief over the loss of precious lives,” the country’s top leadership condemned the bombing.

“The government is committed to wiping out the scourge of terrorism,” Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said in a statement issued after the incident.

Bhakkar 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.

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,” spokesman Wali-ur-Rehman said by telephone.