Mayor killed in Taliban suicide bombing

A Pakistani mayor who had made a stand against the Taliban was yesterday among a dozen people killed after a suicide bomber set off an explosion outside of the city of Peshawar.

Abdul Malik, who had formerly supported the militants only to persuaded to switch loyalties and raise a tribal militia against them, died after the bomber struck in a crowded market in Adazai, ten miles south of the provincial capital. A young girl was also among the dead.

“Malik had survived several attacks on his life in the recent past, since he turned against the militants,” Sahibzada Anis, the top official in Peshawar, told the Associated Press. “But today the militants have finally killed him.”

The bombing is just the latest incident in a wave of violence that has been launched by militants, apparently in retaliation for a military operation in South Waziristan targeting up to 10,000 Taliban and al-Qa’ida fighters. The attacks, carried out over the last month on targets across Pakistan, have resulted in the deaths of more than 300 people as the militants seek to undermine widespread public support for the ongoing army operation.

A spokesman claiming to represent the Taliban claimed responsibility for yesterday’s attack, which happened in a crowded market where shoppers were buying goats sold to celebrate the upcoming Muslim festival of Eid. At least 25 other people were injured, several of them critically, said police. One witness, Khan Zamir, was shopping when the bomb was detonated.

“That place turned into hell where the dead and injured were lying everywhere, and blood and flesh were spread around,” he said. “Now we have our blood in this war.”

As the government has sought to persuade tribal leaders to set-up armed militias, or lashkars, to confront the Taliban, so militants have made a point of targeting those who take a stand against them. A Taliban commander who gave his name as Omar said of the attack on the mayor: “Our local fighters carried out this attack. He had set up a militia. He was supporting killings of our men. He was interfering in our matters.”