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Updated Saturday, December 22, 2012 at 04:16 PM

Pakistan suicide bomber kills 9 at political rally

By RIAZ KHAN
The Associated Press

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A suicide bomber in Pakistan killed nine people including a provincial government official at a political rally held Saturday by a party that has opposed the Taliban, officials said.

The rally in Peshawar, the capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, was held by the Awami National Party, whose members have been repeatedly targeted by the Taliban.

Among the dead was Bashir Bilour, the second most senior member of the provincial Cabinet, said Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, the politician's brother and federal railways minister.

More than 20 others were wounded by the blast, said local police Officer Sabir Khan.

Bilour was leaving the rally after delivering the keynote speech when the attack occurred, said Nazir Khan, a local Awami National Party leader.

"There was smoke and dust all around, and dead and wounded people were lying on the ground," he said.

The suicide bomber was on foot, said another police Officer, Imtiaz Khan.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa information minister and a member of the Awami National Party, said both he and Bilour had repeatedly received threats from militants. He condemned the attack and said the government needed to intensify its battle against the Taliban.

"Terrorism has engulfed our whole society," Hussain said. "They are targeting our bases, our mosques, our bazars, public meetings and our security checkpoints."

Ten Taliban militants attacked the military area of an international airport in Peshawar with rockets and car bombs a week ago, killing four people and wounding over 40 others. Five of the militants were killed during the attack, and five others died the next day in a gunbattle with security forces.

Also Saturday, police said a mob in southern Pakistan stormed a police station to seize a mentally unstable Muslim man accused of burning a copy of Islam's holy book. The crowd beat him to death, and then set fire to his body.

The case is likely to raise further concerns about the country's harsh blasphemy laws, which can result in a death sentence or life in prison to anyone found guilty. An accusation or investigation alone can lead to deaths, as people take the law into their own hands and kill those accused of violating it. Police stations and even courts have been attacked by mobs.

Police arrested the man Friday after being informed by residents that he had burned a Quran inside a mosque where he had been staying for a night, said local police official Biharud Deen.

An angry mob of more than 200 people then broke into the police station in the southern town of Dadu and took the accused man, who they say was under questioning. Deen said police tried their best to save the man's life but were unable to stop the furious crowd.

Police have arrested 30 people for suspected involvement in the attack, said Deen. The head of the local police station and seven officers had been suspended, he said.

Past attempts by governments in predominantly Muslim Pakistan to review these laws have met with violent opposition from hard-line Islamist parties.

Associated Press writers Abdul Sattar in Quetta, Pakistan, and Adil Jawad in Karachi, Pakistan, contributed to this report.

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BERLIN — A German aid worker abducted in Pakistan 11 months ago was seen alive in a video broadcast Saturday urging authorities to fully meet his captors' demands, warning that otherwise they could kill him within days.

The undated video — probably recorded under duress by his captors — was broadcast Saturday by Pakistan's Dunya TV. The German Foreign Ministry in Berlin said it "knows the case" and is aware of the video.

Aid organization German Agro Action declined to confirm whether the video indeed showed one of its two staffers abducted in the central Pakistan city of Multan in January.

The aid worker, identifying himself in the video as 59-year-old Bernd Muehlenbeck, said he was captured by mujahedeen — a generic term for militant Islamic extremists — but didn't specify who they were or what their demands were.


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