NEW: The Pakistani Taliban say they planted the bomb
A bag containing explosives is found attached to Hamid Mir's car
He is an anchor on the television station Geo TV's prime time broadcast
"I will not stop telling the truth," Mir says following the attempt
The Pakistani Taliban on Tuesday claimed responsibility for a foiled plot to assassinate a high-profile television journalist by planting a bomb on his car.
Hamid Mir, a senior anchor on Geo TV’s prime time programming, escaped the attempt on his life Monday when the bomb was found attached to the back of his car and disabled before it could cause any harm.
“We will continue targeting journalists who propagate a secular agenda and side with the government,” Ihsanullah Ihsan, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, said by telephone Tuesday.
Mir said he had gone to a busy market place in the heart of Islamabad “to run some errands” on Monday when the bomb was detected.
A police officer in Mir’s security team saw a plastic bag containing half a kilo (about a pound) of explosives attached to the car and called the bomb disposal squad, which successfully defused the device, said Bin Yamin, the Islamabad police chief.
Despite the brush with danger, Mir remained defiant following the incident in a country that is fraught with risk for journalists.
“I want to give those responsible a message,” he said in an interview with Geo TV. “I want to say that as long as I have life in my body and blood in my veins I will not stop telling the truth.”
He said the assassination attempt “is a message not just to me but to Geo TV and the entire journalist community.”
Pakistan is frequently cited by press freedom advocacy groups as being among the most deadly countries in the world from which to report.
Danger can come from militant organizations – like the Taliban, who threatened journalists for their coverage of the attack on the teenage education activist Malala Yousufzai – and also from government agencies, the advocacy groups say.
“We have a lot of respect for journalists, however all those who are spreading negative news against us and Islam will be targeted,” Ihsan, the Taliban spokesman, said Tuesday.
The Pakistani Taliban, who are closely linked with their namesake in Afghanistan and with al Qaeda, operate in the ungoverned area that sits on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Police say they are investigating the assassination attempt.
The Islamabad bureau chief of Geo TV, Rana Jawed, said that he thought the bomb plot had been carried out by group with expertise in such attacks.
“Somebody must have followed Mir’s car, and when he got a chance he must have attached the bomb,” Jawed said.
He said the bomb had not gone off because it was “faulty.”