The chief minister of Pakistan's restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province on Friday survived an assassination bid by a Taliban [ Images ] suicide bomber who blew himself up near his motorcade in the country's northwest.
The attacker blew himself up shortly after the chief minister's motorcade passed through College Chowk in Mardan city.
Witnesses said policemen fired at the bomber when he tried to approach the motorcade.
Dramatic footage aired on Geo News channel showed the apparently wounded bomber lying on the road as security personnel ran away from him.
Within seconds, the bomber blew himself up. The explosion caused a small crater on the road. Two persons were injured by the blast.
Hoti and others in his motorcade escaped unhurt, the chief minister's spokesman Javed Khaki told the media.
Police officials confirmed the chief minister was the target of the attack.
The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attempt on Hoti's life and a string of attacks in northwest Pakistan Thursday that killed over 20 people.
Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan told reporters by phone from an undisclosed location that his group would “carry out more such attacks”.
The chief minister belongs to Mardan and often spends weekends in the city. He came to Mardan today to address a public gathering at a park.
Soon after the blast, Hoti addressed the gathering amidst tight security and said his Awami National Party would not be deterred by such attacks.
The bomber managed to strike even though police had already cleared the route of the chief minister’s motorcade.
The Awami National Party rules the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, where hundreds have died in suicide attacks and bombings carried out by the Pakistani Taliban.
On December 22, senior ANP leader Bashir Ahmad Bilour was killed by a Taliban suicide bomber in Peshawar.
The ANP says it has lost over 700 workers and leaders in terrorist attacks since 2008.
The Taliban has stepped up attacks in recent months, leading to fears that violence could mar the general election scheduled to be held by May.
The Taliban have offered talks to the government but refused to disarm.
Ihsan also rejected the government’s demand that the Taliban should declare a ceasefire before talks.
"We are ready for peace talks but will not announce a ceasefire," he said.