PESHAWAR, Pakistan – A suicide bomber in Pakistan’s volatile northwest killed eight people Wednesday, including a powerful provincial minister, and wounded 30 in the latest attack to hit the troubled region near the border with Afghanistan.
Israrullah Gandapur, the law and parliamentary affairs minister in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, was its third lawmaker to be killed since June.
Gandapur was hosting more than 500 visitors for the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha when the bomber attacked him at his home in the village of Kulachi, said Shah Farman, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s information minister. "His village is situated in a remote area," Farman added. “The death toll could go higher.”
Gandapur, among the most powerful ministers in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the son of a former chief minister, survived an attack in April when two roadside bombs detonated near his vehicle as his convoy passed. He wasn’t hurt.
Gandapur was elected in May as an independent candidate, his third term in the provincial assembly, before switching to the ruling Movement for Justice party.
A relatively unknown militant group called Ansar al-Mujahideen took responsibility for Wednesday’s attack. "We have taken revenge of our brothers killed during the Dera Ismail Khan jailbreak," Abu Baseer, a spokesman for the organization, told reporters by telephone.
During that jailbreak in late July, up to 100 militants armed with automatic weapons, rocket- propelled grenades, bombs and mortars blasted down the prison walls around midnight, freeing 248 prisoners, a huge embarrassment for authorities. After the walls were breached, a gunfight that lasted several hours ensued, killing 13 people, including six policemen.
Hameedullah Khan, Gandapur’s bodyguard, who was injured in Wednesday’s attack, said from the hospital that a young man around 22 years old wearing a white shalwar kameez -- the traditional, loose-fitting outfit -- and black vest walked toward Gandapur as he was greeting visitors, then detonated his explosives. "There was blood everywhere after the blast," he added.
Kulachi, about 25 miles from the city of Dera Ismail Khan, is located near the border of South Waziristan. Imran Khan, the chief minister of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, said on Twitter that he was shocked by the news, adding that the people and government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa were front-line targets.
I feel devastated over the martyrdom of Israr Gandapur. Got the news as I was going around my NA 56 constit meeting ppl. Still stunned.— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) October 16, 2013
He added that it was "imperative the federal [government] move forward to implement political consensus."
Gandapur was the most senior member of Khan's Movement for Justice party to be killed in a wave of attacks that has left hundreds of people dead in recent months. The party favors peace talks with the Taliban and opposes U.S. drone strikes on targets in Pakistan.
Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, has borne the brunt of recent violence. Two people were killed last week by a bomb that detonated as campaigners prepared to administer polio vaccinations in a Peshawar suburb.
That followed the bombing of a busy Peshawar market in late September that killed at least 43 and wounded dozens, the bombing of a bus carrying mid-level government officials two days earlier that killed 18 and an attack Sept. 22 outside a church in Peshawar that killed about 80 people, one of the worst on Christians in the country.
Special correspondent Ali reported from Peshawar and Times staff writer Magnier from New Delhi. Special correspondent Aoun Sahi in Mandranwala contributed to this report.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times