PESHAWAR: A suicide car bomber struck near a busy livestock market in Pakistan’s Peshawar city today, killing 12 people including a former Taliban sympathiser turned anti-militant mayor, police said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which also wounded 36 people on the outskirts of the northwest city, saying it was avenging Mayor Abdul Malik’s efforts to raise a militia to fight the Islamist rebels.

Pakistan is currently waging a military offensive against the insurgents in their northwest mountain hideouts, incurring the wrath of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group, which has retaliated with a wave of deadly attacks.

“The suicide bomber came in a car and exploded it when the mayor was standing with some visitors outside his guesthouse near the local livestock market,” district administration chief Sahibzada Anis told AFP.

Doctor Muslim Khan at Peshawar’s main Lady Reading hospital said that 12 people were killed and 36 wounded

in the attack.

Hospital officials said that two children were among the dead. “Abdul Malik and a commander of the local anti-Taliban force are also among the dead,” Peshawar police chief Liaqat Ali Khan told AFP.

Malik, mayor of Adizai suburb on Peshawar’s outskirts, once had close links to the hardline Taliban movement, but switched sides in 2008 and had raised a local force to battle the Islamist extremists on the fringes of the city.

The mayor had in the past survived a number of attempts on his life by his former

allies, who are battling Pakistan’s government.

“We accept the responsibility for the Peshawar suicide attack,” TTP spokesman Azam Tariq told AFP by phone from an undisclosed location.

“Abdul Malik has met his fate, and if anybody else dares to raise a lashkar (militia) against us, he will be dealt (with) in same manner.”