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Seven dead as political agent's office hit

19 February, 2013

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PESHAWAR: Seven people, including two civilians, were killed on Monday in an attack on the office of the chief administrator for the neighbouring Khyber tribal region, police and witnesses said.

The attackers wearing levies uniform reportedly aimed to free colleagues under detention. Two explosions were heard, followed by gunfire at the compound of Muttahir Zaib Khan, where tribal officials and members of political parties had gathered for talks.

The blasts were heard by residents living across the Old Bara Road. "At least five people were killed and seven others injured in the incident," Jamal Shah, spokesman for the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH), told our sources.

The dead included three personnel of the Khasadar Force (tribal police) and a line officer. The identity of the fifth victim could not be ascertained.

Police sources said that two civilians were also killed when the gunfire erupted following the attack. At least two suicide attackers entered the office of the political agent where a Jirga was being held with elders from Khyber tribal region, discussing the upcoming election process in their areas.

"It appears the terrorists attacked the compound of the political agent freeing prisoners who were brought to the political agent's office," said a senior security official. The office, seat of power in Khyber tribal region, is surrounded by two checkposts manned by the army. The militants' penetration deep into the heart of the Cantonment area comes as an alarming bell for the provincial government of the Awami National Party, which lost its senior minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour, and failed suicide attack on Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti.

Landikotal Assistant Political Agent Khalid Mumtaz Kundi was among those injured in the attack. He was shifted to the Combined Military Hospital. Army personnel also participated in the operation against the attackers just moments after reaching the site, according to Mumtaz Khan, a shopkeeper in the nearby super market.

"Security forces sealed off the area around Bara and Mall Road. A search operation was conducted in the area to ensure it was cleared of attackers," he told our sources.

Bomb Disposal Squad Additional Inspector General Shafqat Malik believed that one of the suicide attackers entered the control room and blew himself up, destroying it completely. He sid the second suicide bomber detonated his explosives near the hall where a jirga was underway. About eight kilogrammes of high-quality explosives were used in each of the jackets, said the bomb disposal squad chief. "We were meeting Political Agent Muttahir Zaib on the code of elections in the Tribal Areas when the attackers, which I believe were two, entered and launched the attack," Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Khyber Tribal Region President Iqbal Afridi said. "First they opened fire and lobbed a hand grenade and killed two local police officials. Then they entered in the compound and a gunfight erupted," senior police official Imran Shahid told AFP.

There was no claim of responsibility. The military has long been fighting Taliban and other insurgents in Khyber, which straddles a key NATO supply route into Afghanistan, where US-led combat troops are due to leave next year. The upcoming general election will mark the first time adults are eligible to vote and political parties allowed to operate in the tribal belt, parts of which are strongholds of militants. Critics have argued that lack of reforms had alienated tribesmen and made it easier for militant networks to recruit young men to take up arms to fight the Pakistani government.

End.

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