Taliban bombs in Pakistan on Wednesday killed 12 people and wounded 14 others, including a senior judge seriously injured in the business capital Karachi, officials said.
Judge Maqbool Baqir, who has worked on a series of terrorism cases, was targeted by a bomb that killed at least nine people on a busy street during the morning rush hour. Baqir is a member of Pakistan's minority
Shiite Muslim community and had been threatened by militants, including hardline Sunni Muslim sectarian outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has claimed a series of devastating bomb attacks on Shiites. The bomb, planted on a motorbike, exploded as Baqir drove past with his security detail in Burns Road in the centre of the city. At least nine people, including eight members of the judge's security detail, were killed and 14 other people wounded. "The dead include six police officers, two (paramilitary) Rangers and the judge's driver," police official Ameer Sheikh told AFP.
Baqir was taken to hospital with critical injuries, but was said to be out of danger by early evening. "He received threats from the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
Other militants had also threatened him," Sheikh said. Baqir has worked on several cases involving militants, serving as a judge in special anti-terrorism courts set up in Pakistan to hand down quick judgements in terror cases. Police said six kilogrammes of explosives were used to detonate the bomb, planted on a motorcycle.
Sheila Varadan, South Asia legal advisor for the International Commission of Jurists, said that such attacks signalled a "renewed challenge to the ability of the Pakistani judiciary to function as an independent institution". Karachi, a city of 18 million people, contributes 42 percent of Pakistan's GDP but is rife with murder and kidnappings and has been plagued for years by ethnic, sectarian and political violence.
Last year around 2,000 people were killed in violence linked to ethnic and political tensions, its deadliest toll in two decades. In the northwest, another bomb attack killed the head of a pro-government tribal militia, along with his brother and nephew in Jani Khel, Bannu district, officials said.
Security officials told AFP that Malik Hashim Khan supported an army operation in the area, part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province which borders Afghanistan, in 2007-08. "It was a powerful bomb which destroyed the vehicle completely. Malik Hashim, his brother and nephew died on the spot," a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity. A second official said the dead bodies were destroyed beyond recognition.
Pakistan has for years been fighting homegrown Taliban insurgents in its border areas with Afghanistan. A spokesman for Pakistan's umbrella Taliban movement, Tehreek-e-Taliban, claimed responsibility for both attacks. "We claim responsibility for the attack on the judge because he used to give verdicts against Islam and Muslims," Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP from an undisclosed location. "Taliban also attacked the head of the pro-government militia in Bannu because he joined hands with the government against the mujahideen," he added.