PESHAWAR, (Reuters) – Taliban Islamic militants bombed a political rally in Pakistan’s northern city of Peshawar on Saturday, killing nine people including a provincial minister, officials said, the latest in a string of high-profile attacks.
The provincial minister for local government, Bashir Ahmad Bilour, died of his wounds at Lady Reading Hospital, the hospital’s chief executive Arshad Javed said. Police official Ibrahim Khan said one policeman had been killed and several were among the 30 people injured.
Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan claimed responsibility for the attack and said the insurgency would continue to target the Awami National Party, the largest political party in the northerly Khyber Pakhtunkwa province.
The bombing follows last week’s attack on Peshawar airport, when nine people including five attackers died in a car bomb, rocket and gun attack.
This week, nine polio vaccinators were shot dead in the southern city of Karachi and in and around Peshawar.
The Taliban says it was not responsible for those killings, although Taliban commanders have repeatedly condemned the polio vaccination drive as a plot to spy on or sterilise Muslims.
Army officials told Reuters recently that Hakimullah Mehsud, the official leader of the Pakistani Taliban, had lost the trust of his fighters and surrendered operational control to his deputy, Wali-ur-Rehman – a claim denied by the Taliban.
It is not clear if the uptick in violence is connected to turmoil within the leadership.