PESHAWAR: A Taleban suicide bomber killed at least 23 people and wounded dozens more as they attended Friday prayers at a mosque in a northwestern Pakistani tribal area, officials said. The bombing took place in the village of Butmaina in the Mohmand tribal district bordering Afghanistan where the army has been fighting against Taleban militants. “At least 23 people have been killed and 30 others wounded,” deputy chief of the Mohmand tribal district administration Naveed Akbar told AFP.
The bomber came in as Friday prayers were in progress and blew himself up in the main hall, he said. The victims include four children, aged 10 or younger, who were killed in the attack, he said, adding that a curfew has been imposed in the area. Another local government official confirmed the information. Shireen Zada, a resident who had prayed at another mosque nearby, said he heard the blast as he was walking home.
“I rushed to the spot and when I went inside the hall there was blood and human remains everywhere and people crying out,” he told AFP. “I brought my pick-up truck, loaded three wounded and drove them to the hospital in Khar,” he said, referring to the nearest town. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the bombing, saying the government would remain steadfast in their fight against extremists. “The cowardly attacks by terrorists cannot shatter the government’s resolve to eliminate terrorism from the country,” read a statement from Sharif’s office.
Taleban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was carried out to avenge the deaths of 13 of its members and arrests of others by a local vigilante force in 2009. “Today our suicide bomber has attacked the so-called peace lashkar (vigilante force) in Mohmand agency’s Anbar district,” the group’s spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said in an email to reporters. “We warn all the lashkar members of Anbar and supporters of military to quit opposition to Islam and jihad and refrain from enmity with Mujahedin (holy warriors) otherwise our war is being extended,” Ehsan said. – AFP