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Pakistani official targeted, killed in suicide blast

From Shaan Khan, CNN
December 23, 2012 -- Updated 0654 GMT (1454 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A suicide bomb attack kills at least seven and injures 20
  • Pakistani Taliban admitted it targeted a provincial official
  • Provincial minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour dies in surgery

(CNN) -- A Pakistani provincial government official openly targeted by the Pakistani Taliban was killed Saturday in a suicide bomb attack, officials said.

At least seven people were killed and 20 injured in the blast at downtown Peshawar, in an area known as the "storytelling market," police official Asif Iqbal said.

Among the dead was Bashir Ahmed Bilour, a provincial minister who a Pakistani Taliban spokesman admitted the militants were aiming for.

Bilour died at the hospital while undergoing surgery, Iqbal said.

A suicide bomber detonated himself in the crowded market where the secular political party ANP gathered ahead of upcoming elections, senior police official Shafqat Malik said.

The Pakistani Taliban claims responsibility for the attack, which was aimed at the political party and Bilour, Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan said.

"Bashir Bilour had received threats before," Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said.

The threats stemmed from the party's stance against terrorism, he said.

"I and him both were threatened by terrorist groups who warned they would cut our heads off," Hussain said. "Bilour stood up against terrorism so he was always under threat."

The attack will not deter the party's resolve to advocate for operations to destroy militant operations, he said. "Just because we are targeted doesn't mean we will back down against terrorism."

The slain official's brother called for the fight against militants to continue.

"He devoted 40 years of his life to politics and working for Pakistan," Ghulam Ahmed Bilour said. "We will continue the struggle, I am not afraid."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the bombing, saying the organization supported Pakistani efforts to "combat the scourge of terrorism."

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