15 killed, Spaniard injured in attacks in Pak`s restive areas
Peshawar/Islamabad: At least 15 people, including 13 Pakistani policemen and a child, were on Wednesday killed and a Spaniard cyclist injured in three separate attacks in the country`s restive areas.
Seven Pakistani tribal policemen, escorting a Spanish cyclist, were killed and the tourist critically injured as militants tried to abduct him in the highly volatile southwest Balochistan province where a bus bomb killed 24 Shia pilgrims a day earlier.
In another deadly attack, six policemen and a child were killed in a blast that targeted a security van en route to guard a polio immunisation team in northwest Pakistan`s Khyber-Pakthunkhwa, that also witnessed a local Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F) leader being shot dead.
In the first attack, militants tried to abduct the Spanish tourist, travelling on a bicycle from Dalbandin area of Balochistan, triggering an exchange of gunfire between the militants and Levies personnel, the local tribal police.
At least seven Levies (tribal police) men were killed during the clash while ten others, including the Spanish national, were injured, Dawn News reported.
The kidnapping bid that occurred in Koshak area was foiled while all the injured were shifted to a nearby hospital in Mastung district.
The Levies personnel were accompanying the Spaniard, said to be a cycling tourist who was coming from Pak-Iran border to Quetta when militants tried to abduct him.
All foreigners travelling through the restive region are provided security escort.
Balochistan`s Home Secretary Asad ur Rehman Gilani said: "The Spanish tourist is stable and doctors are providing medical treatment to him in a hospital".
He said one Levies personnel was also killed in the incident.
A Spanish embassy spokesman said the cyclist is safe and has been released from hospital.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack that came a day after an explosion ripped through a bus carrying Shia pilgrims returning from Iran in the restive Mastung district, killing 24 people.
Balochistan, that borders Iran and Afghanistan, is one of Pakistan`s most unstable provinces, plagued by sectarian bloodshed and nationalist movement.
Kidnappings for ransom are common in the province and western tourists have been abducted earlier too.
In March last year, two Czech women were abducted as they travelled through Balochistan from Iran. They remain missing.
A Swiss couple were held captive by the Pakistani Taliban for over eight months after being abducted in 2011 in Balochistan. They were found safely in March 2012.
Meanwhile, security forces launched an operation in Darin Garh area of Mastung after the attack on the Spaniard.
The Home Secretary said police, Levies and Frontier Corps personnel backed by two Army helicopters were engaged in an operation against the militants.
Road linking Pakistan with neighbouring Iran gave a deserted look as result of operation by security forces.
Passengers remained the worst sufferers as long queues of vehicles could be seen waiting, the report said.
In the second attack, six policemen and a child were killed in a blast in Sardheri Bazar area in Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa`s Charsadda district that targeted a security van en route to guard a polio immunisation team, police said.
Deputy Inspector General of Police Mardan Range Saeed Wazir said that the bomb, weighing four to five kilogrammes, was planted on a cycle.
Nine others, including two policemen, were also injured in the explosion. The injured have been shifted to the district hospital for treatment.
Today`s attack came a day after the immunisation drive in Karachi was suspended following an attack on a vaccination team in the city`s Qayyumabad area that killed four polio workers.
In another incident in Punjab province`s Bhakkar district, the vehicle of a polio vaccination team came under attack, Dawn news reported.
The attack left the windows of the vehicle shattered, injuring the driver of the vehicle and a Lady Health Worker.
Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where polio remains endemic, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria.
Meanwhile, shutter-down strike and mourning day was being observed in Quetta today against the killing of 24 pilgrims in Mastung last night.
Markets and shopping malls remained closed in the city.
In the third deadly attack, unknown gunmen today shot dead local JUI (F) leader and religious scholar Maulana Qazi Abdul Aziz Athar in Khyber-Pakthunkhwa.
The JUI (F) leader was on his way to market from his home in Tank district bordering South Waziristan Agency when motorbike-borne armed assailants fired at him.
The killers managed to flee from the scene. The incident is a target killing, police said.
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