Thursday, February 18, 2010

30 killed &110 injured in Tirah suicide bombing

At least 30 people – including an important Lashkar-e-Islam commander (LI) – were killed and another 110 injured in a suicide attack near a mosque in Akakhel area of Khyber Agency’s remote Tirah valley on Thursday, according to sources. Witnesses told Daily Times that a suicide bomber – after parking his explosives-laden double cabin pickup in the middle of a ground – blew himself up while meeting the LI’s deputy chief for the area, also setting of the explosives in his vehicle. But a source said the bomber only detonated explosives strapped to his body as LI members and locals prepared for midday prayers at Darss Mosque, controlled by the LI. The agency also quoted local official Javed Khan as saying that the dead also included other LI militants. The AFP news agency quoted a regional official as saying that attack was carried out with around 80 people gathered around "the mosque, a cattle market and bazaar". However, the AP news agency reported that officials were still investigating if the explosion was caused by a suicide bomber or a planted device. The blast was so powerful that it was heard in far off areas. The site of the attack – which took place near an LI centre and also destroyed the mosque – was littered with body parts, clothes, shoes and debris. The source said that around 40 kilogrammes of explosives were used in the attack. Kohat Commissioner Khalid Umarzai told reporters over the phone that the injured had been shifted to Kohat hospitals for treatment. He said "most of those injured" were in critical condition. Sources in Tirah valley confirmed that the LI deputy chief for the area, identified as Azam Khan, was among the dead. An intelligence official told AFP, "We have confirmed reports that militant commander Azam Khan was also killed in the blast." LI has not held anybody responsible for the attack. AFP quoted an intelligence official as saying, "There is a possibility that the rival group [Ansarul Islam] attacked the LI base." But a spokesman for the Ansarul Islam (AI) – talking to Daily Times – denied his group’s involvement in the attack. The spokesman, Naeem, said AI had nothing to do with such attacks, and claimed his organisation did not employ suicide bombers. He said "an important meeting of the LI and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)" was underway when the bomber struck. LI spokesman Haji Zar Khan was not available for comment. Akakhel area is located on the border of Khyber and Orakzai agencies. While Orakzai is controlled by the TTP, the LI is the dominant force in Khyber. The attack in Khyber came as US special envoy Richard Holbrooke met Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in Islamabad. The president and the prime minister have condemned the attack. The president said such attacks could not deter the resolve of government and the people to continue the fight against militancy, extremism and terrorism.



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