Attack on Pakistani minister fits pattern: investigators
Apr 29, 2007 - 8:12:09 PM

Islamabad, April 29 - The suicide attack on Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao resembled a string of other bombings this year, investigators said Sunday as funeral ceremonies were held for some of the 28 people who died at a rally the previous evening.

As in four blasts that killed more than 20 people in Islamabad, Peshawar, Tank and Dera Ismail Khan, Russian-made explosives and jacket packed with ball bearings were used in the attack, members of the Federal Investigation Agency said in Charsadda.

Meanwhile, Sherpao attended collective prayers for victims of the attack in the town in the North-West Froontier Province - locate by the Afghan border.

The minister, who suffered minor shrapnel wounds to the legs, was among hundreds of people who gathered amid tight security to commemorate the dead.

'It was a miracle. I don't know how I survived,' he told the Dawn newspaper after Saturday's early evening explosion. His son was close by at the time but also escaped serious injury.

In comments to the Geo news channel after a funeral service, Sherpao said he was the target of the attack but that it would not deter him in the fight against terrorism.

The nature of the attack was not new for him as his brother was also killed in a bomb blast, he said.

Hayat Sherpao died in a bombing at a public meeting in the NWFP capital Peshawar in 1975 while also serving as interior minister.

Amid conflicting casualty tolls, Information Minister Muhammad Ali Durrani said that 28 people died and 52 were injured. No group immediately claimed responsibility.

Investigators found the torso and severed head of the grey-bearded bomber and were trying to establish his identity.

Officials said he appeared to be an Afghan or from Pakistan's tribal areas, where militant groups have been linked to previous blasts around the country.

A high-security alert was declared in the main cities of Pakistan after the incident.

Sherpao, who received a number of death threats before the attack, had just finished addressing a rally of supporters of his faction of the Pakistani People's Party when a man approached him and detonated an explosive vest.

A number of elected politicians and security officials were among the casualties from the blast, which was the seventh suicide attack in Pakistan this year.

Speaking to Sherpao by phone before his talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Ankara Sunday, President Pervez Musharraf condemned the Charsadda blast and said such 'dastardly acts will not make any dent in our morale,' Geo reported.

Pakistan was playing a key-role in the war against terrorism, Musharraf said.

Terrorist acts and extremism have increased in Pakistan since it joined the US-led war against terrorism in late 2001. Recent months produced a wave of militancy emanating from the ethnic Pashtun tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

US officials also say the region has become a safe haven for the Taliban and Al Qaeda elements.

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