Suicide bomber kills 40 in Pakistan mosque
By RIAZ KHAN
PESHAWAR, Pakistan —
A suicide bomber struck a mosque in a Pakistani tribal region
during Friday prayers, officials said, killing at least 40 people and
wounding 85 others in the deadliest attack in the country in recent
The attack came during the holy month of Ramadan, a time of fasting, sharing and heightened community spirit for Muslims.
group immediately claimed responsibility, but the Taliban and other
Islamist militants have previously targeted mosques, especially if they
believe enemies – such as army soldiers or anti-militant tribesmen – are
using the facilities.
The mosque hit Friday is in Ghundi, a village in the Khyber tribal
region, a part of Pakistan’s tribal belt. Khyber has long been a base
for Islamist militants, and the Pakistani army has waged multiple
operations aimed at pacifying the region but with limited success.
also is a key region for the U.S. and NATO, because a large portion of
non-lethal supplies heading to U.S. forces in Afghanistan passes through
Some 300 people had gathered for prayers Friday afternoon in
the Sunni mosque, and many were on their way out when the explosion
occurred, local administrator Iqbal Khan said.
“All the evidence
we have gathered confirms that it is a suicide attack,” said Fazal Khan,
another local official who also confirmed the casualty figures. He said
witnesses alleged the bomber was a young man.
Saleem Khan, 21,
said people panicked after the blast, and that amid the smoke, cries and
blood, several ran over him when he fell.
“Whoever did it in the
holy month of Ramadan cannot be a Muslim,” he said from a hospital bed
in the main northwest city of Peshawar. “It is the cruelest thing any
Muslim would do.”
TV footage from the scene showed a heavily
damaged building. Prayer caps, shoes and green prayer mats were
scattered across a blood-splattered floor, while ceiling fans were
twisted and walls blackened. Men comforted a young boy who wept as he
held his hand to his heart.
The attack appeared to be the
deadliest since twin bombings in mid-June killed around 40 people in
Peshawar. That attack was believed to be part of a wave of bombings
staged by militants to retaliate over the U.S. killing of al-Qaida chief
Osama bin Laden in May.
The Pakistani Taliban and their
affiliates stage attacks in Pakistan because they oppose Islamabad’s
alliance with the United States.
Also Friday, two U.S. missiles
struck a house in a tribal region that was once a Pakistani Taliban
stronghold, killing four people, intelligence officials said.
strike came as Pakistani-U.S. relations are struggling since the
unilateral American raid that killed bin Laden in the northwest
Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad. The continued missile attacks,
which Pakistan officially opposes, suggests Washington considers the
tactic too valuable to give up.
Though Pakistan objects to the
covert, CIA-run missile program, it is believed to have aided it at
times. The U.S. rarely acknowledges the program.
The two missiles
hit a house Friday in Sheen Warsak village in the South Waziristan
tribal area, according to two Pakistani intelligence officials who spoke
on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to
The identities of the dead were not immediately clear.
Although U.S. officials insist the vast majority of victims in the
strikes are militants, Pakistanis and some human rights activists have
said civilians are often caught up in the attacks.
Waziristan is a lawless stretch of rugged territory that was largely
under the control of the Pakistani Taliban until October 2009, when the
country’s army launched an operation against the insurgents. However,
militant activity is still occasionally reported in the region.
It is nearly impossible to independently verify the information from the region because access is heavily restricted.