Militants attack anti-Taliban mayor in Pakistan

Click to follow
The Independent Online

More than a dozen militants opened fire on the house of an anti-Taliban mayor in northwestern Pakistan today, but security guards repelled the attack, killing three assailants who had disguised themselves by wearing women's burqas, police said.

Militants have staged a wave of attacks in northwestern Pakistan in recent weeks in retaliation for an army offensive launched last month in the tribal area of South Waziristan, where al-Qaida and Taliban leaders are believed to be hiding.

Three militants who initiated the attack in the town of Bazid Khel against Mayor Mohammad Fahim Khan's house concealed themselves by donning all-encompassing burqas traditionally worn by Muslim women, police official Nabi Shah said.

"Seeing three burqa-clad women early in the morning, Fahim Khan's security guards challenged them, and the men threw away their disguise and opened fire," Shah said. "But the guards were alert and they retaliated quickly."

The guards killed the three militants, but several others joined the fight, Shah said. The two groups waged a gunbattle before the remaining militants fled, he said.

Khan is the second mayor to be attacked in the last week who has organized a local militia to fight against the Taliban. A suicide bomber hit a crowded market outside the main northwestern city of Peshawar last Sunday, killing 12 people, including a mayor who once supported but turned against the Taliban.

Militants have made several attempts to assassinate Khan. Bazid Khel lies about 10 miles (15 kilometers) south of Peshawar.

"Militants have exploded three bombs near my house, killing innocent people, and they have opened fire on me several times but have failed so far," Khan said. "These attacks will not weaken my resolve against militants."

The recent wave of attacks has killed hundreds since the beginning of October. The insurgents appear to believe the violence will weaken the determination of both the people and the government to counter the rising militant threat.

Many attacks have targeted areas in and around Peshawar, which borders Pakistan's semiautonomous tribal region where the army is fighting its offensive. Strikes in the past week alone have killed more than 50 people, including 11 who died Saturday when a suicide car bomber attacked a police checkpoint on the outskirts of Peshawar.

A day earlier, another suicide car bomber attacked the regional office of Pakistan's top intelligence agency in Peshawar, killing 10 people.