Interior minister survives assassination attempt | Asia Pacific

Interior minister survives assassination attempt

Interior minister survives assassination attempt

Updated 20 March 2012, 5:20 AEDT

Investigators in Pakistan are still trying to identify the suicide-bomber who killed at least 28 people, in an assassination attempt against a senior government Minister.

The weekend attack came as president Pervez Musharraf, who's survived three attempts on his life, is meeting his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai in Turkey.

WEINBAUM: Well, he's a high profile figure, he's a well known politician in the North-west frontier. Of course he heads the interior ministry which has the responsibility for security in the country. He's a secular politician. All this makes him I believe an ideal target for those who want to strike out against the Musharraf Government and also any efforts here to curb the influence of the radical Islamic groups that are operating now in the north-west frontier province, as well as the tribal areas.

LAM: The north-west frontier provinces of course is a very volatile region. Do we know whose behind this latest violence?

WEINBAUM: Well, it's awfully hard to say. The government in Pakistan, some of the spokespersons have been saying it's an Afghan. Of course they don't really know at this point. There's no way to distinguish between an Afghan and say in a tribal person in terms of their dress and of course visually where you couldn't tell the difference. But it has all of the signature of al Qaeda. This suicide bombing as a tactic is a rather recent one, and it is associated with Al Qaeda's operations. But there are some very radical Islamic groups in the frontier, one in particular which operates in a nearby district where this took place and they have already a reputation for being willing to try for rather spectacular kinds of attacks.

LAM: Mr Sherpao was in charge of security as the interior minister, so I guess killing him would have been a huge victory for these terrorists?

WEINBAUM: Oh absolutely, I think that and this is clearly different than say the attacks on Musharraf, which are still under investigation in a way and could very well have been an inside job, involving perhaps even government security and army types, but this is clearly associated with what we would identify here as extremist elements.

LAM: And President Musharraf of course meets with his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, later today in Turkey. Do you think the latest violence is likely to lend a sense of urgency to this meeting now?

WEINBAUM: I think it will. Of course President Karzai is able to use this to demonstrate the nature of terrorist activity, activity inside of Pakistan, which he claims of course fuels the insurgency in Afghanistan. As far as Musharraf is concerned, he could react to this by indeed showing greater caution and he has done that in response to some other similar kinds of attacks, not nearly as spectacular as this, where rather than stepping up, he stepped back. But I think here this is such a direct challenge that he may very well try to pull out whatever stops he has.

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