Peshawar: A suicide bomber targeting members of an anti-Taliban militia at a funeral in northwestern Pakistan killed 34 people and wounded at least 45 others on Wednesday, police said.
Police and witnesses said the bomber had slipped into the congregation of more than 200 people attending funeral prayers for the wife of a known anti-Taliban militiaman in Adezai village, near Peshawar.
A witness Gul Akbar, 22, said the blast took place as those attending the funeral had lined up to offer prayers.
“The suicide bomber very easily came here and joined the participants. There was not a single policeman to check him,” complained Akbar.
Akbar said that the village, close to the lawless tribal region of Darra Adam Khel, had been attacked several times.
“We have had several fights with them (militants) but we cannot stop the suicide attacks. We need the government’s help to stop such attacks,” he said.
Television footage showed bearded elderly men wearing blood-stained clothes rushing from the scene in panic. Prayer caps and slippers lay alongside scattered body parts at the prayer site, which was spattered with blood.
“We have received 34 dead bodies and 45 injured. Eleven of the injured are in a very critical condition. Some of the dead are in pieces,” Abdul Hameed Afridi, head of the main hospital in the city said.
Police officer Mohammad Ijaz Khan confirmed the bomber’s target.
“The target of the bombing was members of the anti-Taliban militia,” Khan said.
“We have sent teams to remove the bodies and shift the injured to the hospital,” he added.
Villagers brought wooden carts to transport the dead and wounded, an AFP reporter at the scene said.
Adezai village is known for clashes between the Pakistani Taliban and pro-government militiamen, local police officer Siraj Ahmed said.
Hamyun Khan, a member of the village pro-government militia, complained that the government had not provided enough arms, ammunition and police to deal with the growing threat.
“I was standing in the last row. The blast took place in the middle of the funeral. It was so severe and huge that I am still unable to hear. The government and police are responsible for such incidents,” he said.
Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani issued a statement condemning the attack and reiterated the government’s “resolve to root out the cancer of terrorism from every nook and corner of the country”.
Peshawar lies at the gateway to the country’s remote and militant-infested tribal regions.
The US has repeatedly urged its key anti-militant ally Pakistan to launch army offensives to combat extremists in the border region, which it says is home to top Taliban leaders.
But Islamabad says its resources are already overstretched by the militant threat across the country.
More than 4,000 people have died in suicide and bomb attacks across the Islamic Country since government forces launched an offensive against militants in a mosque in the capital in 2007.
On Tuesday, a car bomb planted by suspected militants at a filling station in the central Punjab region killed 25 people and wounded 154 others.
The last major attack in the northwest hit a packed mosque during Friday prayers last week on the outskirts of Nowshera, close to Peshawar, killing at least 11 people and wounding over 20 others.
Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants launch daily attacks across northwest Pakistan and the tribal belt that Washington has branded the most dangerous place on Earth.
The Taliban target security forces in Pakistan, claiming many attacks in revenge for a covert campaign of US drone strikes in the tribal areas.
The US does not officially confirm the controversial missile strikes, which nevertheless take place with Islamabad’s tacit approval.