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Suicide attack on Peshawar Press Club kills four
Peshawar Press Club President Shamim Shahid said, “We have been receiving threats from unknown terrorists”
By Abdullah Jan
PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Four people were killed and another 17 were injured in a suicide attack on the Peshawar Press Club December 22, police said.
Eyewitnesses said the dead included a police official, Riaz-u-Din, who stopped the suicide bomber at the main entrance of the Press Club. Dozens of journalists were present at the time of the blast. .
The accountant of the Press Club, Mian Iqbal Shah, was severely injured, and later died in the hospital.
Police said two passersby, including a woman, were also killed in the explosion.
The injured were evacuated to the nearby Lady Reading Hospital. One of the injured was a cameraman.
Riaz-u-Din could have been somewhere else on Tuesday.
As a guard at the Press Club, he was well-known to many journalists and had a good rapport with them. He was about to be transferred to another location.
“Riaz-u-Din, the security guard, was so jolly and mixed up with the journalists that his transfer was cancelled and he was re-posted at the Press Club this morning at the request of the journalistic community”, said Iqbal Khattak, a Peshawar-based journalist who recalled the security guard. Khattak is a contributor to Central Asia Online.
Tuesday’s blast was the first at any media establishment in the series of terrorist attacks in the North West Frontier Province [NWFP] of Pakistan since last May. There have been about two dozen blasts in Peshawar during 2009 that have killed more than 300 people.
Last February a group of armed and masked men blew up the Wana press club, in the capital of the South Waziristan tribal area, according to the Reporters Without Borders website.
Peshawar Police chief Liaqat Ali said the suicide bomber tried to enter the building before he detonated the bomb.
“He was bravely stopped by the police official who was killed in the explosion”, Liaqat said. “If the bomber had entered the main building of the club there would have been many casualties”.
Police said the suicide attacker was carrying 8 kg of explosives.
Peshawar Press Club President Shamim Shahid said, “We have been receiving threats from unknown terrorists”.
The blast at the Peshawar Press Club created concern and a sense of insecurity among the journalists in Peshawar.
Most of the Peshawar-based media representatives also cover the adjoining volatile tribal areas, which they have to visit from time to time.
“We are giving [the Taliban] enough coverage. This attack on our club looks unjustified”, said one photojournalist, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Journalists are thought to be a carefree crowd with regard to their security. Many journalists frequently visit the tribal areas, including the Waziristan Agencies, where the Pakistani army is conducting a major operation against the militants.
But Tuesday’s attack might have put a damper on that attitude as journalists realize they are as vulnerable as anyone else.
Peshawar Press Club administrators announced a three-day period of mourning to protest the suicide attack.
Black flags will be raised over the club, and protest rallies will be held during the mourning period.
Trade associations and political groups announced plans to join hands with the journalistic community in their protest against the bombing.
Two human legs and a skull, which police said belonged to the suicide bomber, were found at the site.
“They cannot scare and keep us away from our cause of rooting out terrorism from society”, an emotional NWFP minister of information told reporters. He said government authorities would make every possible effort to ensure the lives of its citizens.
“We are not going to negotiate with any terrorist”, vowed the NWFP senior minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour, who visited the site minutes after the incident.
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) will observe countrywide rallies and protest meetings and has declared December 24 as “Youm-e-Azam” to condemn the suicide attack on the Peshawar Press Club.
In a press release issued December 22, PFUJ said the journalistic community cannot be terrorized by such cowardly attacks.
Reporters Without Borders and The International Committee to Protect Journalists (ICPJ), two international organizations that work to protect journalists and defend freedom of speech, also condemned the attack.
According to the ICPJ, seven Pakistani journalists have been killed in 2009; four of them were killed because of their work.