Suicide blast kills 50 at mosque in Khyber

27 03 2009
Friday, 27 Mar, 2009 | 05:28 PM PST |

Source: DAWN

Tribesmen gather as they take part in rescue work at the site of a suicide blast near Jamrud in the Khyber agency tribal region, about 30 km from the Afghan border, March 27, 2009. — Reuters

LANDI KOTAL: A suicide bomber killed at least 50 people when he blew himself up in a crowded mosque near Pakistan’s Jamrud town, about 30 km from the Afghan border, on Friday, government officials said.

The bomber set off his explosives as an imam, or prayer leader, began the service.

Eyewitnesses believe the casualty figures are being under-reported and that at least 70 people have been killed, first by the explosion, and secondly by the collapsing of the mosque’s ceiling.

‘The moment the imam said Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest), the blast went off,’ said Tauseer Khan, 70, from a hospital bed in nearby Peshawar.

‘It was huge. I still can’t hear properly,’ said Khan, who had wounds to his hands and face. His son and grandson were also wounded.

Rahat Gul, a spokesman for the Khyber administration, said 50 people were killed and 75 wounded.

Between 250 and 300 people were in the mosque, said Tariq Hayat Khan, the region’s top administrator.

‘It was a suicide attack. The bomber was standing in the mosque. It’s a two-storey building and it has collapsed,’ Khan said.

Worshippers searched through piles of bricks, pulling out bodies and carrying them to ambulances in sheets and on rope beds, television pictures showed.

Police caps, prayer caps, prayer beads and mobiles telephones were later lined up on a wall outside the mosque.

Dawn’s Khyber Agency correspondent Ibrahim Shinwari explained that the Friday prayer congregation at this mosque is quite large as it is frequented by Frontier Corps personnel and members of the Khasadar force who are stationed at the adjacent check post. Moreover, those who travel to and from Torkham for work stop at this mosque to offer prayers. There are also many tribal households within a two-kilometre area from where people come to offer prayers.

TTP militants had warned of a blast of this nature, Shinwari said, adding that a shoot-out between militants and security forces at the nearby checkpost one month ago left one militant dead and two injured, and they were thus seeking revenge. Following that encounter, a TTP spokesman in Khyber Agency had said that there would be consequences if Nato supplies are not suspended and if FC personnel are not disbanded.

‘ENEMIES OF ISLAM’

Police initially said a bomb blew up at a police post next to the mosque, which is by the main road leading to the Khyber Pass and the Afghan border beyond.

‘It’s surprising, those who claim that they are doing jihad (holy war) and then carry out suicide attacks inside mosques during Friday prayers,’ Khan told a private television channel.

‘They are infidels. They are enemies of Pakistan. They are enemies of Islam,’ he said.

Advertisements