Pak Islamist leader escapes 2nd attack in deadly blast, 12 killed 30 injured

The JUI-F chief indirectly blamed the United States and ‘some other elements’ for the attacks. — File Photo

Pak Islamist leader Fazl escapes second attack in two days

Islamabad:  Fri Apr 01 2011 || Pakistan’s hardline JUI chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman had a narrow escape for the second day in a row on Thursday, when a suicide bomber targeted his motorcade in the country’s restive northwest, killing at least 12 people and injuring over 30 others. The Maulana escaped unhurt anyway.

The JUI-F chief indirectly blamed the US and ‘some other elements’ for the attacks because, he said, they were unhappy with his criticism of their policies and actions.

“Apparently I was the target; the attackers sprayed my vehicle with bullets,” he told reporters at Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar where he had gone to visit the injured.

“Who is behind these attacks? I don’t know,” he said in reply to a question.

“I am opposing drone attacks, criticising the release of Raymond Davis and US policies and raising voice for the release of Aafia Siddiqui, which are not acceptable to some people.”

The US embassy condemned the attack. “We offer our sincere condolences to the families and friends of the victims,” said a statement issued in Islamabad.

A security official said the JUI-F leader had been warned about an assassination plot during his speech at a public meeting in Dera Ismail Khan but the warning was ignored.

“We are working on the group behind the threat to the Maulana in Dera Ismail Khan but it is premature to say anything now,” the official said. “The Maulana has long been on the hit list of the terrorists and he knows it.”

He said a suicide bomber wanted to attack Maulana Fazl in Swabi on Wednesday but security personnel stopped him on suspicion and he blew himself up.

He said he had seen several policemen who were injured by the blast.

Rehman cancelled his meeting in Charsadda after the blast.

A car in which senior JUI leaders Akram Khan Durrani and Azam Swati were travelling too was damaged in the attack, though they escaped unhurt.

Footage on television showed several cars that were damaged by the blast. The walls of a nearby mosque were pitted by ball bearings that were packed into the bomber’s explosive vest.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks so far.

Rehman escaped an attempt on his life on Wednesday as well when a suicide attacker tried to target his motorcade at Swabi in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. That attack killed 10 people, including two policemen.

The attacks have surprised political observers as the JUI is perceived as being pro-Taliban.

Rehman has repeatedly called on the federal government to halt military operations against the militants.

Rehman told the media on Thursday that he had not received any threats. He refused to say who could be behind the two attempts on his life.

The bomber struck just after the motorcade of 57-year-old Rehman, a member of the National Assembly or lower house of Parliament, entered Charsadda town in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, where he was to address a gathering at Darul Uloom Islamia seminary.

The powerful blast occurred near a government office and a private school, witnesses said.

“Twelve people, including two members of Rehman’s security detail and a woman, were killed while over 30 others, including policemen and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) workers, were injured”, officials said.

“I am fine. There was a powerful explosion near my car and the windscreen was shattered. Another car in my motorcade was damaged,” Rehman told the media.

Courtesy : Indian Express | Dawn News.

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