Pakistani paramilitary leader killed by suicide bomber

Provincial minister says attack in recently calm Peshawar "doesn't mean the terrorists are gaining strength".

PESHAWAR // A suicide bomber struck a vehicle carrying the chief of a paramilitary police force in Pakistan, killing him and four others in an attack that ended a relative lull in violence in a city often targeted by the Taliban. Sifwat Ghayur, the head of the 25,000-strong Frontier Constabulary, is one of the most senior security officials to be killed by militants in the country. The attack in Peshawar comes as Pakistan's impoverished northwest has been struggling to recover from devastating floods that have killed 1,500 people and affected millions of others, now looking for help from the government. Rescue workers frantically tried to extinguish fires that engulfed several cars in the minutes after the bomb attack near a major market in the center of Peshawar, which was wracked by bombings late last year but has been relatively quiet in recent months. Ghayur was killed along with his driver and three bodyguards, said Shafiullah Khan, a senior police officer. The explosion also injured 11 other people, he said.

"We have lost a very brave and able official in this cowardly attack," said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the information minister for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, of which Peshawar is the capital. "It doesn't mean the terrorists are gaining strength, but they have been beaten and are targeting those who are active in the war against terrorism." The attack was filmed by a surveillance camera, which showed the bomber walking up to Ghayur's vehicle at a traffic light and detonating his explosives. The explosion ripped through several cars stopped at the light, leaving the police chief's body plastered to his seat and burned beyond recognition. The Frontier Constabulary is a paramilitary police force that is primarily drawn from the northwest and operates throughout the country in support of traditional police officers. There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack, but the Pakistani Taliban have frequently targeted security forces. The Frontier Constabulary has worked with the army to battle the militant group, which is based in the country's semiautonomous tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan. Peshawar is in the center of the conflict. It is the main city in the northwest, abuts the tribal regions and is just an hour's drive from the Afghan border. The city was hit by almost daily bombings last fall in retaliation for an army offensive against the Pakistani Taliban's main sanctuary in the South Waziristan tribal area. But violence in the country has not been confined to the northwest. Extra troops were deployed to the southern city of Karachi on Wednesday after 13 more people were killed overnight in violence triggered by the assassination of a leading member of the city's ruling party, said government spokesman Jamil Soomro. At least 58 people have died since politician Raza Haider was gunned down Monday night. The city of 16 million was still tense Wednesday with less traffic than normal on its roads. Authorities have revealed little about the identities of the dead or the nature of the killings, but the victims are believed to be members of rival political parties or ethnic groups. * Associated Press