Valdosta Daily Times

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April 15, 2013

Taliban hit political party, killing one

MINGORA, Pakistan — Pakistani Taliban attacked two leaders of an anti-militant political party on Sunday in northwest Pakistan, killing one and wounding another in the latest attack targeting members of secular-leaning parties ahead of next month’s parliamentary election.

In the first incident, Mukarram Shah was killed in an explosion as he entered his car in the village of Banjot, said Abdullah Khan, police chief of the nearby city of Mingora. The explosives appeared to have been set off by remote control, he added.

In the other attack, a blast hit the convoy of provincial assembly candidate Masoom Shah as he was returning from a campaign meeting, police officer Zahir Khan said. He said Shah and three of his aides suffered wounds from the roadside bomb.

Both men belong to the secular Awami National Party, which supported military operations against militants in the region.

The ANP is one of three secular-leaning political parties that the Pakistani Taliban have threatened to attack during campaigns for the May 11 parliamentary elections. The other two parties are the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

In a video message, the Taliban warned people to stay away from rallies held by the three political parties they consider their enemies.

The three dominated Pakistan’s last government, which was dissolved in preparation for the elections. The ANP also headed the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the main province of the northwest, a stronghold of the Taliban.

The latest two assaults follow three similar attacks since the Taliban issued their threat several weeks ago. Two ANP candidates survived bomb attacks in the northwest, and a Taliban shooter killed an MQM candidate in the southern city of Hyderabad.

Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan claimed responsibility for both bomb attacks. “The three parties are on our hit list,” he told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Right-leaning and religious parties not being targeted by the Taliban have been holding their election campaign rallies without fear.

Pakistani Taliban and most of its leadership are believed to be based in North Waziristan after having fled military operations in their sanctuaries in various tribal regions. North Waziristan is also home to various Afghan militant and foreign al-Qaida linked groups.

Despite pressure from the U.S., the Pakistani military has not launched any major offensive in the region and Washington relies mostly on drone strikes to battle militants.

One such strike on Sunday targeted a house, killing four people in Datta Khel town in the tribal area, said two Pakistani intelligence officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

They said two foreign militants believed to have been residing in the house were among those killed.

Also on Sunday, gunmen attacked a NATO supply convoy in the Khyber tribal region, killing a truck driver and wounding another, said a local government administrator Iqbal Khan. The Khyber Pass is one of the two main routes in Pakistan for NATO supplies headed to neighboring Afghanistan.

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