Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s security chief has been killed in a suspected suicide bomb attack in the volatile port city of Karachi as he stopped his armoured vehicle to buy some fruit, police said.
A senior officer in Pakistan’s financial capital told Reuters news agency that Bilal Shaikh – Zardari’s close aide – was killed along with two other people in a prosperous area of eastern Karachi on Wednesday.
About a dozen others were wounded.
“It seems that the suicide attacker walked up to Bilal Shaikh’s vehicle and blew himself up outside the front passenger seat of the vehicle where Shaikh was seated,” said police officer Raja Umar Khattab.
Pakistan has been hit by a spate of bombings since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was sworn in last month, underscoring the challenges facing the nuclear-armed nation in taming a Taliban-linked insurgency.
A police escort was accompanying Shaikh’s white armoured sports utility vehicle when the attack took place.
Shaikh – who had survived an earlier assassination attempt near his home in Karachi about a year ago – used to change his routes several times while travelling around Karachi, one of Pakistan’s most violent cities.
Both Zardari and Sharif have issued separate statements condemning the attack, a private television channel reported.
It was the first attack in Karachi since mid-June.
On June 30, at least 28 people were killed in the southwestern city of Quetta when a suicide bomber attacked a largely Shia Muslim neighbourhood, highlighting growing sectarian tensions in the South Asian country of 180 million.
Like Zardari, he belonged to the Pakistan People’s Party, which had been in power before the May election. Taliban-linked militants had previously targeted the secular party.
At least nine people were killed when a bomb targeting the convoy of a senior judge exploded in the old city area. The judge survived. Pakistan-based Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack.