Pakistan Provincial Official Escapes Suicide Attack

MARDAN, Pakistan -- The chief minister of northwestern Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province has escaped unhurt after reportedly being targeted by a suicide bomber.

Local officials told RFE/RL that the bomber blew himself up as a convoy carrying Chief Minister Amir Haidar Khan Hoti passed through the town of Mardan on February 15.

Hoti belongs to the Awami National Party (ANP), a secular Pashtun party that has been the target of frequent attacks by the Taliban during its five-year rule in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa because of its opposition to extremist groups like the Taliban.

Since 2007, hundreds of ANP members and leaders have been killed or injured in Taliban attacks.

Lawmaker Zahid Khan, a spokesman for the ANP, told RFE/RL that Hoti and his entourage were unhurt.

Khan said Hoti "was on his way to a function and he is still there [at the function]. When he was going, there was a blast. The police [spotted the bomber], opened fire on him, and he blew himself up. The chief minister and his colleagues are safe."

A police official said the alleged attacker was intercepted before getting close to the convoy and shot by the minister's security squad. Police said the bomber was able to detonate his explosives and two people were injured.

Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for the attack. TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP that they were also behind three attacks on February 14 that killed at least 18 people in southern areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The ANP organized a conference in Islamabad on February 14 where representatives of 26 political and religious parties in Pakistan agreed on a joint strategy for combating terrorism.

The party is pushing for a national consensus on counterterrorism efforts after Bashir Ahmad Bilour, a senior minister in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was killed by a Taliban suicide bomber along with eight others on December 22 in the northwestern city of Peshawar.