Police officers foiled a plan to assassinate a regional education minister in northwestern Pakistan when they engaged four militants in a gunbattle Monday that ended with a teenage suicide bomber blowing himself up, police said.
An informant tipped off officers that insurgents had gathered in a government high school in North West Frontier Province after midnight and were planning to kill provincial Education Minister Sardar Hussain Babak and attack government installations and security forces, police officer Noor Jamal Khan said.
Police confronted the militants and a firefight ensued. A loud explosion rocked the building and three of the men escaped, including one who was wounded, Khan told The Associated Press from Tatalai district where the incident occurred.
"We have collected the body parts of the young suicide attacker and these will be sent for identification purposes," said Khan.
No other deaths were reported.
Pakistan's northwest, near the border with Afghanistan, continues to see near-daily violence with attacks by Islamist extremists on security forces and civilians.
On Friday, a suicide bomber plowed his explosives-laden vehicle into a hotel in the town of Kohat, also in North West Frontier Province, killing more than 30 and wounding dozens of others.
Troops clearing Swat Valley
The latest violence comes as Pakistani forces continue to clear the Swat Valley and surrounding areas to the southeast of Taliban fighters and their al-Qaida allies.
The military said Sunday that security forces killed eight militants in search operations throughout Swat since Saturday. Twenty-three insurgents also were apprehended and another 22 surrendered. One of the militants killed was a Taliban commander identified as Chamtu Khan, it said in a statement.
The military also announced the death of Sher Muhammad Qasab, a feared Taliban commander known for beheading opponents. He died in custody Sunday from gunshot wounds sustained during a fierce firefight with Pakistani security forces last week. Qasab's three sons were killed in the encounter.
The Pakistan Taliban has been on the run since being cleared from the scenic Swat Valley in July after the military launched a major offensive to retake the region in April.
Army operations in the valley have killed more than 1,800 alleged militants, according to the military. It says 330 Pakistani troops also died during the offensive.
U.S. missile attacks have played a significant role in neutralizing the insurgency. Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud was killed in an Aug. 5 CIA missile strike, plunging the group's leadership into disarray. Officials said last week they believed the al-Qaida operations chief for Pakistan and a top Uzbek militant died in missile attacks in the northwest earlier in September.
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