Suicide attack at Pakistan Mosque Kills 61

2010-11-06 14:04

A suicide bomber destroyed a Pakistani mosque during the main weekly prayers yesterday, killing 61 people and leaving body parts under a collapsed roof and pulverised rubble.

The deadliest attack in two months in the country on the frontline of the US-led war on Al-Qaeda was followed by a grenade assault on a second mosque in the same area that killed at least four.

Dozens of people were critically wounded and officials fear the toll from both attacks could rise.

The first blast turned worship into a bloodbath in Akhurwall village, part of the semi-tribal northwest area of Darra Adam Khel, about 140kms west of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

As the force of the explosion reduced the mosque to a pile of rubble eleven children were among the dead, said a local official.

Only one wall was left standing and the concrete roof collapsed, leaving blood stains, human remains and hair scattered in the debris.

Houses near the mosque were also damaged, including that of Wali Mohammad, the leader of a local pro-government militia that had clashed repeatedly with local Taliban militants until reportedly cutting a deal earlier this year.

Though the Taliban denied responsibility for the attacks a local elder blamed the group, suggesting it could have been acting to punish Mohammad’s militia.

Local administration official Gul Jamal Khan said 61 people had been killed and 104 wounded.

Azam Tariq, spokesperson for Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Taliban, denied that the faction was involved. The Taliban routinely denies attacks that kill civilians but has been blamed for some of the country’s most devastating bombings.

“It is the work of Blackwater,” Tariq told AFP in reference to the US security firm renamed Xe after courting controversy in Iraq over civilian deaths. Tariq was speaking from an undisclosed location.

Khalid Umarzai, a regional administrator, suggested the attack could have been in retaliation for military operations targeting Islamist militants.

“An operation is going on by the army and Frontier Corps (paramilitary) in the Darra Adam Khel area. We had been expecting such attacks,” he said.

At least four more people were killed and 14 others wounded when handgrenades were thrown into a mosque in the second attack 20kms away, a hospital official said.

Senior police official Kalam Khan said up to four handgrenades had been thrown inside the mosque.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon, the European Union and the US condemned the attacks, with Washington saying they had “brutally targeted innocent people” at places of worship.

“Whoever was responsible has demonstrated a clear disregard for the Pakistani people and for the peaceful religion they practice,” US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said.

Ban Ki-moon was “dismayed by the indiscriminate killing of civilians in a place of worship, which no cause can justify”, his spokesperson said.

Around 3?800 people have been killed in suicide attacks and bombings since government troops stormed a radical mosque in Islamabad three years ago. Most of the suicide attacks are blamed on homegrown Taliban and other Islamist extremist networks.

The US wants Pakistan’s military to do more to fight insurgents crossing into Afghanistan and fuelling a nine-year Taliban uprising there.

Washington brands Pakistan’s northwest tribal area an Al-Qaeda headquarters though there has been a relative lull in violence since Pakistan suffered catastrophic floods in late July that affected more than 20?million people.

Yesterday’s bombing was the deadliest in Pakistan since a suicide attacker slaughtered 60 people at a Shiite Muslim rally in the southwestern city of Quetta on September 3.

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