published Sunday, December 16th, 2012

Rockets fired at airport in Pakistan, 3 killed

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Militants fired three rockets at an airport in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Saturday night, killing three people and wounding over 30 others, officials said.

Peshawar is located on the edge of Pakistan’s tribal region, the main sanctuary for al-Qaida and Taliban militants in the country. The city has been hit by repeated attacks in the past few years, but an attack on the airport is rare.

None of the rockets landed inside the main airport area, which is jointly used by civilian authorities and the air force, said Pervez George, a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority.

Two of the rockets damaged a wall that surrounds the airport, and a third landed near a government building outside the premises, said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the information minister in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where Peshawar is the capital. A gunbattle broke out between security forces and militants after the rocket attack, said Hussain.

No militants were able to enter the airport, said the air force in a statement sent to reporters. No air force personnel were injured and none of their planes were damaged, it said.

The dead and wounded from the attack came from the neighborhoods located near the airport, said Umar Ayub, a local hospital official. The wounded included women and children, and several people were in critical condition, said Ayub.

Local TV footage showed people in the neighborhoods near the airport rushing for safety as the attack occurred. One car was damaged by the rocket fire and another was set on fire. A house was also damaged.

The airport has been closed, and flights are being diverted to other cities, said George, the civil aviation spokesman.

Also Saturday, police said a judge freed a couple on bail who confessed to killing their 15-year-old daughter in October by pouring acid on her after their other children pardoned them.

The girl’s parents, Mohammad Zafar and his wife Zaheen, said in a televised interview that they killed her because she sullied the family’s honor by looking at a boy.

They were freed from a jail in Pakistan-administered Kashmir on Friday after their other children, who are minors, said they forgave their parents, said police officer Tahir Ayub. The children spoke through their guardian, who is also a relative, said Ayub.

The police officer said authorities had evidence to prove the murder charge against the parents, but by law, their children had the right to forgive them. The murder charge will likely be dropped, said Ayub.

The girl’s death underlined the problem of so-called “honor killings” in Pakistan, where women are often killed for marrying or having relationships not approved by their families or because they are perceived to have somehow dishonored their family.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, at least 943 women were killed in the name of honor last year. The real toll is believed to be higher because many of the crimes go unreported.

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