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High-profile Pak journalist escapes car bomb plot

ISLAMABAD: A high-profile Pakistani journalist and television anchor escaped an assassination bid yesterday when police defused a bomb planted under his car in Islamabad, police said.
Hamid Mir, who hosts the Capital Talk evening show on Geo television and writes a column for a leading newspaper, was criticized by the Taleban last month in the wake of the shooting of teenage activist Malala Yousafzai.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the device was found stuck under the front passenger seat of his car, police said.
“There was half a kilo of explosives fitted with a detonator,” city police chief Bani Amin told Geo, saying that officers had defused the bomb and were gathering evidence.
Mir was on his way to his office and the bomb was apparently planted when he stopped at a market, said Geo’s Islamabad bureau chief Rana Jawad.
“It’s a message to me and the journalist community in Pakistan,” Mir told the television channel. “They want to stop us from speaking the truth but I want to tell them that we will not be deterred.”
Interior Minister Rehman Malik offered a cash reward of 50 million rupees ($ 500,000) for anyone with information about who was responsible for the powerful bomb.
“Had it exploded it would have blown the car into pieces,” Malik told reporters, offering Mir extra protection.
Mir said the interior ministry had told him about threats to his life and already provided a police guard at his home, but he did not name any group he thought might be behind the device.
“Let us wait for the enquiry report, only then we can say something,” he said.
Taleban hitmen shot Malala on her school bus in Pakistan’s northwestern Swat Valley because she had campaigned for girls’ rights to education. The 15-year-old survived.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Pakistan was the third deadliest country for reporters in 2012, behind Syria and Somalia.
Separately, sixteen people have died in a main Pakistani city after drinking cough syrup suspected of being toxic, police said yesterday.
The victims were all drug addicts who apparently drank the cough syrup in an attempt to get high, said police officer Multan Khan.
Khan said they died at various hospitals in the eastern city of Lahore over the past three days. Five other addicts who drank the cough syrup were being treated.
Police arrested the owners of three drug stores where the cough syrup was sold and sent a sample to determine whether it was toxic, said Khan. Elsewhere in the country, a bomb hidden in a cement construction block exploded in the southern city of Karachi killing one person, said senior police officer Farooq Awan. Four other people were wounded, he said.