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Government Office In Peshawar Attacked, Fatalities Reported

Militants Attack Government Office In Peshawar
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Militants disguised as policemen have attacked the compound of a senior government official in Pakistan's northwestern city of Peshawar, killing at least five people.

Authorities say that on February 18 at least four militants attacked the Political Agent Office for the Khyber tribal district, which is the headquarters of the top regional official, Muttahirzeb Khan.

At least one attacker detonated a suicide vest near the compound's entrance.

A Pakistani security officer, who gave his name as Sharifullah, told reporters how the attack started.

"I was standing near a tree in front of the Political Agent Office when the firing started," he said.

"In the firing, [a security officer] on duty with us was injured. Three more people were also injured and I rescued them later [and took them] to a safer place. Then there was a blast and as a result two people were killed and one was injured in the office of [a political administration official]."

A meeting between officials and tribal elders was in progress when the attack started but reports mentioned a van carrying a group of prisoners had just arrived at the compound, which also has a detention facility.

RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal quoted hospital officials as saying four of the five people killed were soldiers and that at least seven other people were seriously wounded in the attack.

Shi'a Targeted In Quetta

The attack in Peshawar comes after a tanker truck filled with explosives killed more than 80 people in southwestern Pakistan’s Balochistan Province on February 16.

The bombing in Quetta appeared to target Shi’ite Muslims. Most of the victims were ethnic Hazara, a Shi’ite group descended from Mongol invaders of the 13th century that mainly lives in Afghanistan.

The Shi'ite community in Pakistan is threatening to hold widespread protests if the government fails to arrest in 48 hours those responsible for the Quetta market bombing.

The extremist group Lashkar-e Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the Quetta attack. The group also claimed responsibility for an attack in January that killed 86 people.

Hundreds of Shi’a gathered in the provincial capital, Quetta, on February 18 to protest the lack of security.

The protesters are refusing to bury the dead from the attack until the Pakistani government authorizes an operation to neutralize Sunni extremists in the region.

There were also protests against the bombing in Karachi on the same day.

Violence has been increasing in Pakistan as the country prepares to hold general elections in mid-May that will mark the first time an elected civilian government completes a full-term in office.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal
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