ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — One of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s most trusted aides was killed in a suspected suicide bombing in the volatile port city of Karachi on Wednesday as he stopped his armored vehicle to buy some fruit, police said.
Pakistan has suffered a spate of attacks since Nawaz Sharif was sworn in as prime minister last month, underscoring the challenges facing the nuclear-armed nation in taming a Taliban-linked insurgency.
A senior police officer in the city said Bilal Shaikh — Zardari’s security chief, who was always spotted next to the president during public appearances — and two others were killed in a prosperous area of eastern Karachi.
“It seems that the suicide attacker walked up to Bilal Shaikh’s vehicle and blew himself up outside the front passenger seat of the vehicle where Shaikh was seated,” the officer, Raja Umar Khattab, said. About a dozen people were wounded. A police escort was accompanying Shaikh’s sport-utility vehicle at the time of the attack.
No one asserted responsibility for the blast, which took place on the eve of the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in Pakistan on Thursday.
The latest wave of attacks has ended a period of relative calm after a May election that marked Pakistan’s first transition between elected civilian governments. In early June, Sharif won a parliamentary vote to become premier for the third time.
Last weekend, at least five people were killed when a bomb ripped through a busy restaurant street in the eastern city of Lahore, Sharif’s home city. On June 30, at least 28 people were killed in the southwestern city of Quetta when a suicide bomber struck in a largely Shiite neighborhood.
Shaikh, who had survived an assassination attempt near his home in Karachi about a year ago, used to change his routes several times while traveling around one of Pakistan’s most violent cities.
Like Zardari, he belonged to the Pakistan People’s Party, which had been in power before the May election. Taliban-linked militants had previously targeted the secular party.
Zardari and Sharif issued separate statements condemning the attack, a private TV channel reported.
It was the first attack in Karachi since mid-June. At least nine people were killed when a bomb targeting the convoy of a senior judge exploded in the old city area. The judge survived. The Pakistani Taliban asserted responsibility for that attack.