Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Taliban target media

* Three killed, 24 hurt in Peshawar Press Club suicide attack
* Bomber blows himself up after being challenged by guard at club’s entrance
* Journalists to observe three-day mourning

PESHAWAR: Three people, including a woman, were killed and another 24 injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the main gate of the Peshawar Press Club on Tuesday.

The building is situated on the Sher Shah Suri Road close to the Cantonment Railway Station. Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) officials confirmed the toll in the first ever suicide attack in the country aimed specifically at journalists.

They said two of the bodies were identified as police constable Riazuddin and a passer-by, Rubina.

Rubina, who died of a cardiac arrest, was travelling in a rickshaw close to the press club when the blast occurred.

Peshawar Press Club accountant Mian Iqbal Shah died at the hospital later.

Several passers-by, including those travelling in a minibus, were injured in the blast besides Peshawar Press Club employees Yasir, Ayub and Kamran. A photo journalist, Khurram Pervez, also sustained injuries in the blast.

Peshawar City Police chief Liaqat Ali Khan told reporters that the suicide attacker had tried to enter the premises. The police guard at the gate frisked the man and tried to overpower him when he discovered that the person was wearing a suicide vest, however, the bomber detonated his vest during the scuffle.

The press club employee Yasir Jamil, who was also injured in the blast, told Daily Times that the suicide bomber was trying to enter the press club when the police guard stopped him. He said the attacker had an argument with the guard, and blew himself up moments later. He said the bomber had a dark complexion and short height and seemed around 18 to 19 years of age.

Nadir Khawaja, a journalist, said he saw the guard and the bomber arguing from the opposite side of the road as he was approaching the press club.

NWFP Information Minister Iftikhar Hussain told reporters at the scene that targeting journalists was “militants’ compulsion”, as the journalists were exposing the terrorists to the public.

He said no one was safe in the country, as the terrorists were targeting mosques, graves and even funeral prayers. Hussain hoped that the journalists would become more organised after the attack and would not bow down to the terrorists.

Mourning: The Peshawar Press Club has announced a three-day mourning. “The press club was already receiving threats and warning letters – journalists here are practically working in a war zone,” Peshawar Presc Club President Shamim Shahid told AFP. manzoor ali shah/afp

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