At least three persons were killed and 18 others, including journalists, were injured on Tuesday when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a press club in Peshawar. This is the first attack targeting scribes in Pakistan, which has been rocked by a series of terror strikes in recent months.
The bomber detonated his suicide jacket while he was being frisked by a policeman at the gate of the press club on the busy Sher Shah Suri Road shortly before noon. North West Frontier Province Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said three persons, including the policeman, were killed by the blast.
A woman, who was passing the area in an auto-rickshaw, was also among the dead, said officials at the Lady Reading Hospital. They said 18 people, including journalists and the accountant of the press club, were injured.
Most of the injured were sent home after being given first aid while five people were admitted to the hospital. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack so far. Peshawar has been hit by a wave of bombings and suicide attacks that has killed hundreds of people since October, when the military launched a major offensive against the Taliban in South Waziristan, but this is the first time that journalists have been targeted. The powerful blast damaged the press club and shattered its windows.
The accountant's room, located at the entrance of the club, was devastated by the blast and the walls outside were pitted by ball bearings packed into the bomber's explosive jacket.
A bus passing the press club was also damaged by the blast. A witness described the bomber as a young man of short stature. He said there was an explosion just as the policeman at the gate began checking the bomber. Security forces cordoned off the area and gathered the body parts of the bomber.
Ambulances rushed the injured to nearby hospitals, where an emergency was declared. Journalists said the press club had received several threats from militants in the recent past. They said they believed the club was the target of the attack as there were no other important buildings or facilities nearby that could have been struck by the bomber.
Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq had reportedly said the media could be targeted because it was backing the ongoing campaign by security forces against militants. Peshawar police chief Liaquat Ali Khan said policemen had been deployed at the press club because of reports that the media could be attacked.
Information Minister Hussain said no one was safe from such terror attacks as the militants were even targeting mosques and graveyards.
"The media has been targeted because they write the truth and the true identity of the militants has been exposed by the print and electronic media," he said.
"Journalists will not be cowed down by this attack and I hope it will strengthen their Jihad (against the militants). The journalists are not alone as the government, security agencies and people are with them," Hussain said.
More than 50 journalists were present in the club at the time of the blast. A provincial minister was scheduled to address a news conference there later in the afternoon while the journalists were busy with activities related to the club's upcoming elections.