At least 65 killed in Pakistan suicide blast

 

A SUICIDE bomber struck outside a government office in Pakistan’s tribal belt yesterday, killing at least 65 people among a crowd waiting for aid distribution.

The attack, one of the deadliest this year, is a reminder that militants retain a hold on the mountainous border regions despite government claims it has regained territory from the Pakistan Taliban.

Opposition and government leaders are planning a joint conference to tackle terrorism after public criticism that they are not doing enough to tackle Jihadi groups.

Yesterday’s attack also wounded at least 100 people in Yakaghund village in the Mohmand tribal region. The Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility, according to local media reports.

Witnesses said they heard two explosions in the village’s market area, which destroyed vehicles and shops.

Abdul Wadood (19), was sitting in a vehicle nearby when the attack happened.

“I only heard the deafening blast and lost consciousness,” he said while being treated for head and arm wounds in Peshawar. “I found myself on a hospital bed after opening my eyes. I think those who planned or carried out this attack are not humans.”

Many of those killed and injured were queuing for wheelchairs and farming equipment handed out by the government to people displaced by the conflict.

Witnesses said the bomber was on a motorbike. Rescuers sifted through the rubble looking for survivors. Rasool Khan, a local official, said: “Now the death toll is 65. Around 112 people have been wounded . . . They include major and minor injuries. The death toll may go up as there are seriously injured people.”

Mohmand is one of the areas that makes up Pakistan’s lawless tribal region. Over the last three years it has witnessed a spillover of militancy from neighbouring Bajaur, from which the army says it has forced out the Taliban.

Pakistan launched two major offensives in the northwest last year against homegrown Taliban militants who have killed hundreds of people in retaliatory attacks across Pakistan, mostly in the northwest, but also in major cities. Frequent suicide attacks suggest the insurgents are moving from safe haven to safe haven, avoiding military operations.

Meanwhile, targeted killings of leaders who opposed the Taliban have continued. There has also been a surge in attacks in other areas of Pakistan. Two suicide bombers killed at least 42 people in an attack on Pakistan’s most important Sufi shrine in the eastern city of Lahore last week.

Western analysts believe the Islamabad government and its security forces are waking up to the danger of militants it once sent to wage war in Afghanistan and Kashmir. “There is a growing realisation that they are stuck with the blowback of their previous policy,” said a diplomat in Islamabad.

In the past, they allowed militant groups safe haven so long as they limited their attacks to western forces in Afghanistan.

However, in the past year militants from the Punjab – who once fought Indian forces in Kashmir but now target the Pakistan government – have joined forces with the Taliban in their mountain hideouts, creating a more dangerous threat.