Islamabad: Pro-Taliban militants attacked the shrine of renowned Pashto poet Amir Hamza Khan Shinwari in the Khyber tribal region of northwest Pakistan with grenades and rockets, partially damaged it, officials said on Saturday.
Militants attacked the 'mazar' in Landikotal area on Friday morning and damaged the shrine's boundary wall, officials of the local political administration said.
A paramilitary guard stationed at the shrine said the militants asked him to leave the area.
When he refused to do so, the militants lobbed two grenades and fire several rockets at the shrine.
The guard and the militants exchanged fire for some time before additional forces from the Khasadar militia reached the shrine.
The militants escaped and troops conducted a search operation in the area.
Two nearby shops were damaged by the blasts. Local residents said this was the fourth attack on the shrine in two years.
Shinwari, also known as Hamza Baba, is a popular Pashto poet and is referred to as "Baba-e-Ghazal".
Taliban militants are opposed to the practice of people paying their respect at Sufi shrines and have attacked several mazars across Pakistan in the past few years. Scores of people have been killed and injured in these attacks.
Senior Awami National Party leader Afrasiab Khattak condemned the attack on Shinwari's shrine, saying great saints and poets of the region had made innumerable contributions in spreading Islam.
Militants could not limit the reverence for poets and saints by attacking shrines and such assaults would only increase the people’s respect for such revered persons.
First Published: Saturday, July 23, 2011, 11:13