Pakistani Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province's senior minister Bashir Bilour, center, meets with his party worker during a political rally, moments before a suicide bombing, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012 in Peshawar, Pakistan.  — Photo by AP

PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Senior Minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour and at least eight other people were killed and 17 injured in a suicide bomb explosion in Qissa Khwani Bazaar on Saturday evening.

The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack on the Awami National Party leader whose outspokenness had made him a lot of enemies among the militants.

The victims included the minister’s personal secretary, Noor Mohammad Khan, and Abdul Sattar Khan, an SHO who had escorted him from the venue of a corner meeting held in the Dhaki Nalbandi street.

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf announced one-day state mourning. The national flag will fly at half mast.

Federal Railway Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, elder brother of the assassinated minister, made a statement about the death at Lady Reading Hospital (LRH).

Peshawar SSP Imran Shahid told Dawn that although stringent security arrangements had been made, the suicide bomber managed to sneak in from an adjacent street.

Bomb disposal unit officials said there were about six kilograms of explosives in the suicide vest and the attacker’s head and a foot had been found.

Doctors at the LRH said condition of five of the injured was critical because of head injuries.

The minister suffered pellet injuries on his chest and abdomen.

Dr Arshad Javed, the hospital’s chief executive officer, told reporters that Mr Bilour was in extreme shock when he was brought in and his blood pressure was very low. “We immediately put him on ventilator and tried for over an hour to save his life. However, the injuries on his abdomen, chest and lower parts of the body turned out to fatal.”

An ANP worker, Imran Khan, recalled his horror: “As the corner meeting ended, the provincial minister came out of the venue, while his elder brother Ghulam Ahmed Bilour remained busy meeting party activists. All of a sudden the massive blast took place.”

He said the attack had taken place in a commercial-cum-residential area where the meeting had been arranged to welcome some elders who had joined the ANP. The ministers had assured them that their problems would be solved.

A daily wager, Ikram, who was desperately searching for his missing son, Fayaz Khan, at the scene of the tragedy said he was busy in his routine work when a loud bang shook the place

Another witness, Jafar Khan, said he too had attended the ANP meeting, but was standing at the corner of the street when the attack took place. He said the injured included some shopkeepers and workers of a nearby tea stall.

Mian Pervez, Abdul Mateen, Mohammadul Haq, Bakhtawar and an unknown elderly man were among the dead.

The explosion destroyed dozens of shops, houses, cars and motorcycles of belonging to shopkeepers and shoppers.

TTP CLAIM: The banned TTP’s spokesman for Dara Adamkhel and Khyber Agency, Mohammad Afridi, told Dawn by phone a suicide bomber belonging to his group had attacked the minister, our correspondent in Ladha adds.

He said the TTP had set up a new ‘revenge wing’ that had carried out the attack. Afridi warned that leaders of the ANP and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement were the prime targets of his group.

AFP adds: Another TTP spokesman said that the attack had been carried out to avenge the killing of an `elder’ of militants, Sheikh Naseeb Khan.

Police said around 100 people had gathered at the place when the bomber detonated his suicide vest.

“The bomber reached very close to the senior minister,” Asif Iqbal, a police official, said.

He said there were several ANP workers among the victims and four policemen were injured.

According to the authorities, about 35,000 people have been killed as a result of terrorism in the country since the 9/11 attacks in the United States and the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

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