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Second bomb attack targets Islamist

A suicide bomber has struck a convoy carrying a prominent hardline Islamist leader in north-western Pakistan, killing 12 people in the second attack to target the politician in as many days, police have said.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of the Jamiat Ulema Islam party, told local TV after the attack in Charsadda town that he was unharmed but his vehicle was slightly damaged. The attack came a day after a suicide bomber blew himself up amid a crowd of Mr Rehman's supporters minutes after he passed by in a vehicle.

Mr Rehman has been an outspoken supporter of the Afghan Taliban, but some militants in Pakistan have shown a willingness to target anyone connected to the US-backed government.

US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks last year also revealed that he allegedly sought support from US officials in Pakistan despite his fierce criticism of Washington in public.

The 12 dead from the latest attack included at least three policemen, said Liquat Ali Khan, police chief in Peshawar city. The blast also wounded at least 20 people. It was unclear if the bomber was on foot or on a motorcycle.

Local TV footage showed a police truck damaged by the blast, its front partially ripped off and its side covered in shrapnel holes. Several nearby shops were also damaged and their goods spilled out into the street.

On Wednesday, a suicide bomber riding a motorcycle blew himself up at a police checkpoint that was surrounded by Mr Rehman's supporters who had showed up to greet him as he travelled to Charsadda to address a public gathering. The blast left Mr Rehman unharmed but killed 13 people.

No group has claimed the bombings. Attacks targeting people like Mr Rehman who have militant sympathies are unusual but not unheard of.

The most prominent militant sympathiser reportedly killed by insurgents was former Pakistani spy Sultan Amir Tarar - better known as Colonel Imam - who helped the Taliban rise to power in Afghanistan in the 1990s.

The Pakistani Taliban said in February that they shot and killed Tarar after holding him captive for 10 months in north-west Pakistan because the government failed to meet their demands. The government disputed the claims, saying Tarar died of a heart attack in January while in captivity.

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