ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- A prominent anti-Taliban politician in northwestern Pakistan was killed on Saturday in a suicide bombing, underscoring the dangers faced by politicians who stand up to the insurgents.
Police officials said the bomber detonated explosives near a filling station while a vehicle carrying the politician, Fateh Khan, passed by in a town in the Buner district, in the restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. Two security guards working for Mr. Khan and three passers-by were also killed in the attack, seen as an act of retribution by the Taliban.
Ehsanullah Ehsan, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack and warned of more assassinations. "Our mujahedeen killed him," he said in a telephone interview. "We carried out this noble deed."
Mr. Khan had long been a member of the Awami National Party, a secular party that rules the province and opposes the Taliban insurgency. About three years ago, Mr. Khan shifted political loyalties and joined forces with an opposition politician, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, a former interior minister. Mr. Khan also led an anti-Taliban militia in the province.
Leaders of Awami and Mr. Sherpao's political party, the Qaumi Watan Party, which also opposes the insurgency, have been targeted by the Taliban. Mr. Sherpao himself has escaped two assassination attempts.
Taliban insurgents have been methodical in targeting their opponents, including politicians and tribal elders who have organized anti-Taliban militias. The tactic has demoralized the local population, which complains that the government and the military have failed to provide sufficient security.
Mr. Ehsan vowed more attacks on politicians as preparations for general elections, expected to be held early next year, get under way.
"We will target Awami National Party members in the future as well, wherever we find them," he said. "There will be no mercy."
The Buner district has been a stronghold of the Taliban, and they still maintain a presence in isolated pockets. The district is used as a transit route by the insurgents as they cross the border to safe havens in Kunar Province, in Afghanistan.
The district neighbors the picturesque Swat Valley, where the Taliban held sway until they were pushed out after the Pakistani military staged an offensive in 2009. But despite the military operation, the Taliban have not been completely routed.
On Oct. 9, a Taliban gunman there shot a student and activist, Malala Yousafzai, 15, who has become a symbol of resistance to the Taliban for her forceful defense of education for girls. The brazen shooting shocked the nation and was condemned worldwide. Ms. Yousafzai is currently under treatment in England.
Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud contributed reporting from Bannu, Pakistan.world
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.