Anti-Taliban leader in Swat Valley escapes deadly blast

Improvised explosive device planted on a road in Malam Jabba in Swat Valley kills one and wounds two others.

Pakistan Dir blast
Pakistani military drove out Taliban from Swat Valley in 2009 [Ihsan Ullah/AFP]

Islamabad, Pakistan – A remote-controlled roadside bomb explosion targeting an anti-Taliban leader in the northern Pakistani Swat Valley has killed one man and wounded two others, police say.

The blast targeted the vehicle of Ahmed Zeb, a local leader opposed to the Taliban near the town of Malam Jabba, about 150km north of the capital Islamabad, on Monday.

Zeb’s father Mian Sher was killed in the attack, police said. His brother Muhammad and another companion were also wounded.

“The attack killed his father. [Ahmed Zeb] was not even in the vehicle. It was a remote controlled IED [improvised explosive device] planted on a remote rural road,” Akhtar Hayat Khan, the Swat Valley police chief, told Al Jazeera.

Pakistani Taliban fighters took partial control of the Swat Valley in 2007, the first territory outside of the country’s tribal districts where they were able to establish their rule.

They were defeated two years later after a series of military operations that have since been hailed as the blueprint for the Pakistani military’s continuing battle against the group.

Zeb is a member of the local Village Defence Committee (VDC), a network of councils created across the valley in the wake of those operations to establish and maintain government control in conjunction with local tribal elders.

Anti-Taliban leaders have often been targeted by the Pakistani Taliban in revenge attacks that have continued long after their defeat.

In 2012, gunmen attempted to kill then 14-year-old student Malala Yousafzai, who had often written against the brutality of their rule, in one such attack.

Monday’s attack, however, is the first such assassination attempt in more than 15 months, said Khan.

“Obviously it is a serious incident and we are working on this,” he said.

Many VDC leaders such as Zeb, particularly those facing repeated threats, are accorded police protection. Not all, however, can be given such protection, given that there were scores of such committees, said Khan.

“Some of them are still getting police protection […] as per agreed lists with the councils,” he said. “Given the number of VDCs, if we provide protection to every VDC member then the police in Swat would only be doing one job: protecting them.”

Ahmed Zeb was not one of those currently assigned police bodyguards.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s Web Correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.

Source: Al Jazeera


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