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TTP claim responsibility for death of anti-militant officer Kalam Khan
By Javed Aziz Khan
PESHAWAR – A senior police officer, who last August earned the Pakistan Police Medal for fighting militants, was killed in a suicide attack in Pishtakhara Chowk on the Peshawar Ring Road, officials told Central Asia Online March 15.
Several other people were wounded.
"Superintendent of Police for Rural Peshawar, Kalam Khan, was on the way to his office at Malik Saad Shaheed Police Lines ... when a suicide bomber blew himself up close to his vehicle," said Tahir Ayub Dawar, senior superintendent of police (SSP) operations in Peshawar.
Kalam, 58, died immediately and his vehicle was destroyed, said police official Jalaluddin.
The driver, Hidayat, and another policeman, Liaqat, were wounded and were taken to the Hayatabad Medical Complex, Jalaluddin said. A wounded passer-by was shifted to Lady Reading Hospital, he said.
TTP takes responsibility
Muhammad, spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), called reporters in Kohat to claim responsibility.
"Kalam had raided the house of our member in Azakhel and picked up his 11-year-old son, Hamza, who is missing since then. He also conducted raids on our people. That is why he was killed," Muhammad said, according to a Kohat media representative who spoke to Central Asia Online. Muhammad also said more police officers are on the TTP’s hit list, he said.
Police said the pedestrian suicide bomber detonated explosives wrapped around his body after Kalam’s vehicle slowed down near a police check-post in Pishtakhara Chowk.
The spot is just 5km from the troubled Khyber Agency, and a number of terrorist attacks, including at least three suicide bombings, have hit the square in recent years.
Shafqat Malik, assistant inspector general of the Bomb Disposal Unit, said his men had collected some of the bomber’s remains. The culprit used 6kg of explosives packed with ball bearings.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Governor Barrister Masud Kausar said the government will continue its fight against the militants, adding, "Their network will be eliminated soon."
Kalam’s fight against terrorism
Senior police praised Kalam.
"If Peshawar is safe today, there is a huge contribution of Kalam in it," Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police Kashif Alam, who commanded Kalam as SSP of Peshawar in 2008-2009, told Central Asia Online.
"Perhaps Kalam Khan was the only officer who you could say was always in the field, organising lashkar peace committees, establishing police posts, plugging all routes leading into Peshawar," said another former SSP of Peshawar, Ijaz Ahmad.
Kalam is the fourth senior KP police officer to be killed by suicide bombers in recent years. Others include Frontier Constabulary Commandant Safwat Ghayur, DIG Malik Saad and SSP Iqbal Marwat.
In August, the Pakistani government conferred the Pakistan Police Medal, a top award for police gallantry, upon Kalam for leading the fight against militants in rural Peshawar. Kalam led several operations against militants in Matani, Badhaber and Mathra. He also led several actions during his posting in Malakand in 2007 and 2008.
Kalam joined the police force in 1975. He served in the troubled Swat, Dir and Buner districts before his posting to Peshawar.
Militants earlier kidnapped one of his sons but eventually released him.
Pakistan remains committed to fighting terrorism
Such attacks will not weaken the government’s efforts to root out terrorism, KP Senior Minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour said.
"The militants are on the run, but we will chase them and eliminate their network soon," Bilour said.
The "artificial new wave" of terrorism would end soon, KP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said, referring to the violence of the past few weeks.
Peshawar security forces went on high alert after the Pishtakhara blast.
Troops closed access to FC Plaza in Peshawar Saddar to prevent attacks on the adjacent headquarters of the Frontier Constabulary.
Police at all points of entry to the city also received orders to check suspicious vehicles after intelligence reports of another possible bombing in Peshawar March 15.
Funeral prayers for the slain commander were offered at the Malik Saad Shaheed Police Lines in Peshawar. Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti, Kausar, Inspector General of Police Akbar Hoti and a number of cabinet members were among those attending.