More than 70 people including children have been killed in bomb and grenade attacks on two mosques in northwest Pakistan, according to reports.
Pakistani villagers clean the interior of a mosque following a suicide bombing inside the premises in Akhurwall village, part of the semi-tribal northwest area of Darra Adam Khel, on November 5. A pair of mosque bombings killed more than 70 and caused considerable damage in Pakistan Friday. A Majeed/AFP Photo/Newscom
Up to 70 people have been killed in two attacks on mosques in north-western Pakistan.
A teenage suicide bomber struck a mosque packed with Friday worshippers, killing dozens and injuring 80 others in the restive Darra Adam Khel region of northwest Pakistan today, in one of the country’s worst terrorist attacks this year. The bomber struck while Jumma prayers were underway today in the mosque at Attariwal village in Akhorwal area, 45 km south of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa capital Peshawar.
An injured man is carried to hospital in the aftermath of the blast (AFP: Hasham Ahmed)
Officials said the bomber was a youth aged about 17 or 18 years who managed to enter the mosque, located near the ‘hujra’ (guesthouse) of pro-government tribal elder Malik Wali Khan.Official Shahidullah Khan said authorities received warnings about such attacks almost on a daily basis.Kohat Commissioner Khalid Umarzai too told the media that authorities were expecting such attacks due to operations being conducted by security forces against the Taliban in Darra Adam Khel and nearby tribal areas.The local chapter of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack.
Up to 300 people were attending Friday prayers when the explosion tore threw the crowd.
The mosque collapsed, leaving many of the dead and injured under the rubble.
Several children were among the victims.
The death toll is expected to rise as more bodies are retrieved from beneath the debris.
It is the deadliest attack in Pakistan in two months.
Houses near the mosque were also damaged, including that of Wali Mohammad, the leader of a local pro-government militia. Officials said the mosque was owned by a pro-government tribal elder who could be the target of the attack but it was not clear whether he was hit.
That militia clashed repeatedly with local Taliban militants until reportedly cutting a deal earlier this year.
A local elder blamed the Taliban, suggesting it could have been acting to punish Mohammad’s militia.
The first deadly blast was followed by an attack on a second mosque in the village of Suleman Khel on the outskirts of Peshawar, which killed several people.
Provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said that attack was a “reaction to the successes” of an anti-Taliban militia, known as a lashkar, in Badhber.
“No police or government can be successful without the people’s support. We need these lashkars. We will support them to eradicate terrorism,” said Hussain, whose only son was killed by militants earlier this year.
Allied to insurgents in Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban have carried out scores of attacks over the past three years against army, government and foreign targets and allegedly trained the Pakistani-American who attempted to blow up a car bomb in Times Square this year.
The Taliban and other militant outfits have often struck mosques where their enemies gather, unconcerned that this may make them unpopular in this Muslim nation.
In the town of Dara Adam Khel, in Pakistan’s northwest territory, a young suicide bomber detonated his load amid 300 worshipers during Friday prayers. He killed at least 67 people and injured more than 100.
On Friday evening, four grenades were hurled inside a mosque in the Suleman Khel village, which is on the outskirts of Khyber tribal region. The blasts killed at least four people.
The bombing in Dara Adam Khel appeared to be targeting the Akhoorwaal tribe because it has been resisting Taliban expansion. Pakistani Taliban claimed the responsibility.
“There is no right for traitors of mujahids and Islam to live,” read a message from the Taliban, quoting notorious leader Tariq Afridi. Mr. Afridi is the commander of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan(TTP), which is commonly known as the Pakistani Taliban and is linked with Al Qaeda.
Taliban targets: mosques and tribal elders
The attack was seemingly designed for maximum impact, as the bomb was detonated in the middle of Friday prayers, and combined two increasingly common Taliban targets: the mosque and thejirga (council of tribal elders). The targeted mosque was inside the hujra, or congregation spot, of the tribal council leader.
The suicide attack was one of the deadliest in a series of attacks by Al Qaeda and Taliban across Pakistan in which hundreds of people have lost their lives this year.
Taliban commanders are trying desperately to strengthen their hold across the region, say analysts. The US continues drone attacks on the semi-autonomous tribal region of North Waziristan along Pakistan-Afghanistan border while pressuring Pakistan to increase operations there. What’s more, Pakistani security forces are ramping up operations in other tribal regions.
The bombing was meant to “terrorize tribesmen,” says Brig. Mehmood Shah (ret.), a Peshawar-based analyst. “Taliban want to control the region so they are targeting locals who have raised voice against them. They want to eliminate the dissent,” he says.
“It is the worst revenge tactic and showing that they are desperate and weakened,” says Mr. Shah.
Dara Adam Khel lies about 31 miles south of Peshawar and links Orakzai and Khyber tribal region in the west through a hilly terrain. Pakistan’s security forces have been pounding the area with bombs in a bid to rout militants in the ongoing operation. The forces have also been going after them in Khyber region where the militants attack NATO supply convoys.
Tribesman remain defiant
Eyewitnesses of the mosque attack described the moments before the blast occurred.
“I saw a young boy walking toward the worshipers. The moment he raised his arms, he exploded,” says Mohammad Nasir.
The attack triggered terror alerts and warnings for additional attacks by Taliban across the country, especially in the northwest.
“It’s a cowardly act. The terrorists might try to carry out more attacks but we are not afraid,” says Provincial Minister Mian Iftikhar, whose only son was assassinated by the Taliban three months ago. “It’s a long battle against terrorists and extremists. They can be defeated once we remain united.”
“The US, Afghanistan, and Pakistan should have to continue to wage war to eliminate terrorism,” he says.
In Dara Adam Khel, members of the Akhoorwaal tribe vowed to continue fighting the Taliban.
“We will not let the sacrifices of our tribesmen be in vain. We won’t let them convert our future generation into terrorists and destabilize the country. We will start mobilizing other tribes in our war against terrorists,” says tribesman Javed Ur Rehman Akhoorwaal.
US denounces Pakistan mosque attacks as ‘brutal’
WASHINGTON — The United States Friday condemned two attacks on mosques in Pakistan, saying they “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,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
“The United States will continue to work with the government of Pakistan to combat violent extremism.”
The comments came after a suicide bomber destroyed a Pakistani mosque on Friday, killing 61 people during the main weekly prayers in Akhurwall village, part of the semi-tribal northwest area of Darra Adam Khel.
The deadliest attack in two months in the country on the front line of the US-led war on Al-Qaeda was followed by a grenade assault on a second mosque in the same area which killed at least four.
“The United States condemns today’s two bombings that took place at mosques in Pakistan which brutally targeted innocent people at worship,” Toner said.(AFP)
Afghan Taliban threaten to kill anyone talking peace
KABUL: Scribbled notes from Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar have surfaced in mosques all over Afghanistan’s Pakhtun heartland, threatening death to anyone who takes up a government offer to negotiate for peace, according to a long-time Taliban member.