Taliban silence another critic
* KP senior minister Bashir Bilour among nine killed as suicide bomber attacks ANP’s meeting
* Taliban claim responsibility for suicide attack
PESHAWAR: Regarded a symbol of “anti-Taliban resistance”, Senior Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour succumbed to wounds minutes after a suicide bomber blew himself up leaving nine dead and 18 injured.
“We lost a great leader,” said Awami National Party (ANP) President Asfandyar Wali Khan while paying tribute to the late party leader.
The Saturday’s assassination of senior KP minister comes a week after an audacious attack on Pakistan Air Force (PAF) base inside Baacha Khan International Airport in Peshawar was foiled.
Bashir Bilour was returning from a party meeting in Dhaki Nalbandi area near historical Qissa Khawani bazaar when he was attacked. He was immediately rushed to nearby Lady Reading Hospital from where his body was transported to home an hour later.
Lady Reading Hospital Executive Director Dr Arshad Javed said Bashir Ahmad Bilour was brought to hospital “in critical condition” as he suffered chest and stomach injuries from the blast.
The ANP leader was immediately operated upon to save his life. However, efforts of a team of doctors proved futile, leaving the country mourn the death of a fierce opponent of the Taliban.
Bomb squad experts said the suicide bomber detonated his explosives when the ANP meeting was at its peak.
“The suicide bomber walked into the house where the meeting was taking place and detonated his vest,” Shafqat Malik, chief of the bomb disposal squad, said.
Zahidullah, 30, a shopkeeper in the area, said he was standing to Bilour’s rear when the bomber struck.
“The meeting was about to finish when I heard a noise and soon afterwards I saw a blue flame and then the blast hit,” he told AFP.
Peshawar SSP Khalid Hamdani also told reporters that the suicide bomber walked to join the ANP’s elections-related public meeting. Bashir Bilour had survived at least three such attacks in the past.
Among the dead were Kabali Police Station SHO Sattar Khan and the late minister’s personal secretary Noor Muhammad.
KP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain brushed aside impressions that Bashir Bilour was not provided enough security.
“This is not true. Our security personnel are among the dead,” he told a private TV channel.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack, justifying the attack in the name of “war” against “secular elements” in the country.
The TTP said it had targeted Bilour in revenge for the death of one of their elders.
“We claim responsibility for killing Bashir Ahmad Bilour. It is revenge for the martyrdom of our elder Sheikh Naseeb Khan,” TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP.
Expressed his shock and grief over the killing of Bilour, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf announced one-day mourning across the country today (Sunday).
The national flag would fly at half-mast today, he said.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government also announced three-day mourning across the province. Bilour’s funeral would be held at 2pm today and he would be buried at Syed Hassan Pirbiri cemetery in Peshawar. staff report/agencies