Sunday, December 17, 2017
News Roundup

Suicide attack in Pakistan kills provincial official

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A suicide bomber killed a senior provincial official and at least nine guests at the official's home in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, in the most high-profile political assassination by the Islamist insurgency there this year.

The official, Israr Gandapur, the law minister in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, was exchanging greetings with neighbors to mark the Eid al-Adha religious holiday at his village near Dera Ismail Khan, in the west of the province, when the bomber struck, provincial officials and the police said.

The attacker fatally shot a police guard outside the gate before rushing toward the room where the minister was receiving visitors. Gandapur, 38, and at least nine other people were killed in the explosion, and at least 30 people were wounded, the police said.

Witnesses described scenes of carnage as villagers dressed in new clothes to mark the holiday were either killed or badly wounded.

"There were arms, legs and heads everywhere," one witness, Haseeb Khan, told Reuters.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but government officials in Dera Ismail Khan blamed a local affiliate of the Pakistani Taliban, which was formed in the neighboring South Waziristan tribal district about seven years ago.

Gandapur was the most senior member of the Tehreek-i-Insaf party, led by former cricket star Imran Khan, to be killed since the party came to power in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa after the May elections.

Khan strongly supports peace negotiations with the Pakistan Taliban, a once-controversial position that has more recently become part of mainstream political thinking.

Khan has called for a cease-fire with the Taliban umbrella group, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, and for the militants to be allowed to open a political office. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, also support talks.

But little progress has been made, and Wednesday's attack underscored the difficulty of negotiating with a group that seeks to violently upend the democratic process.

The Taliban say they want to overthrow the state and impose Islamic law, and have set the release of prisoners and an end to U.S. drone strikes as preconditions for any talks.

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