Five people have been killed in a blast in northwestern Pakistan, including an influential anti-Taliban tribal leader, police have said, in the first major bombing in more than a decade in an area that was once a battleground between security forces and rebel fighters.
Tuesday’s attack comes as fears rise about the return of the Pakistan Taliban, also known as the TTP, to the Swat area in northwest Pakistan, and peace talks between security forces and fighters, that started last year, have failed.
Peace committee leader Idrees Khan was killed along with two bodyguards when their vehicle drove over an improvised explosive device, Swat police officer Zahid Marwat told Reuters.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Swat Station House Officer Fayaz Khan told Pakistani news website Dawn.com that investigations suggested the attack was a “remote control bomb” which targeted Khan.
He said the blast occurred near the Kot Katai village at 6:30pm (13:30 GMT). A passer-by and another unidentified man were also killed in the attack.
“The vehicle Khan was travelling in was also reportedly completely destroyed, Fayaz said, adding that the police cordoned off the area,” Dawn reported.
Khan was a local elder and previously the head of a tribal force that fought against the Pakistan Taliban in Swat. Pakistani forces, along with local fighters, were able to drive the fighters from the area in an intense military operation in 2009.
The operation had made global headlines with the international community fearing the rapid advance of the TTP fighters towards the capital, Islamabad.
Local residents said Tuesday’s blast was the first major explosion in Swat since the 2009 military operation in the picturesque valley, which is where armed individuals shot education activist Malala Yousafzai, who later went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Last week the Pakistan military said five soldiers were killed in a gun battle with the Pakistan Taliban in the country’s northwest.
The Pakistan Taliban accused the military of breaking a fragile ceasefire that was declared in June. A Pakistan Taliban commander said troops had attacked the group in six districts recently, including Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan last year Islamabad has regularly complained of attacks by the Pakistan Taliban, especially along the porous border.