Top Pak politician escapes suicide attack, 15 killed

Islamabad: A senior anti-Taliban politician had a narrow escape when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a funeral on the outskirts of Peshawar city in northwest Pakistan on Sunday, killing 15 people and injuring nearly 40 others.

The bomber struck in Badabher area of Peshawar just after Khushdil Khan, Deputy Speaker of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, left a graveyard after attending funeral prayers for a local resident, police said.

Khan was the target of the bomber but he escaped unhurt as he left the area 10 minutes before the blast, Peshawar police chief Imtiaz Altaf told reporters. Khan belongs to the secular Awami National Party, whose leaders and workers have been targeted by the Taliban in the past.

Thirteen people were killed instantly while two others succumbed to the injuries at the Lady Reading Hospital, police and hospital officials said. Another 37 people were injured. Several of the wounded were in a serious condition and the death toll could rise, the officials said.

Police said they had found the legs and head of the suicide bomber. They said most of the casualties were caused by ball bearings packed into the attacker`s suicide vest. Several vehicles were damaged by the powerful blast. Security forces cordoned off the area and launched a search operation. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Badabher has a strong anti-Taliban `lashkar` or private militia that supports the security forces against militants. It was not clear if any leader of the militia was attending the funeral. This was the second terror attack in Badabher in less than two months. .

On February 2, a car bomb went off in a busy market in the area, killing at least nine persons and injuring 24 others. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province has witnessed a surge in violence by the Pakistani Taliban in recent weeks.

On Friday, a Taliban spokesman had warned that the militants would carry out suicide bombings against security forces and the government across the country if the family of slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is not released.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said last week that authorities had charged bin Laden`s three widows with illegally entering and staying in Pakistan. He said the widows and their children were being held in a house in Islamabad. Bin Laden was killed by US special forces during a raid in the garrison town of Abbottabad in May last year.