Burqa-clad suicide bomber kills 40 in Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, (Reuters) – A burqa-clad   suicide bomber attacked a crowd of people waiting for aid in   Pakistan today, killing at least 40 of them, officials said, showing    militants’ ability to strike despite army offensives.
The attack in the Bajaur region on the Afghan border came a    day after a clash between Pakistani Taliban insurgents and    security forces in the neighbouring Mohmand region that left 11    soldiers and 24 militants dead.
“I myself have counted 40 bodies but the death toll could    rise as several wounded people are in critical condition,”   Dosti    Rehman, an official at the main government hospital in Bajaur,    told Reuters.
Zakir Hussain, the top government official in Bajaur,    confirmed the death toll and said 60 tribesmen were wounded. He    said the death toll could rise as some of the wounded were in    critical condition. Several women and children were among   casualties, officials said.
The suicide bomber, who was wearing a head-to-toe burqa   but whose gender has not been ascertained, detonated   explosives as hundreds of people from the Salarzai tribe were   heading towards a food distribution centre set up by the World   Food Programme (WFP) for people forced from their homes by   earlier fighting between security forces and al Qaeda-linked   militants.
A WFP spokesman said the attack took place where people   were    being screened at a security checkpoint near their centre.
Witnesses said the attacker first threw hand grenades at    tribesmen before detonating the bomb.
“First there were two small explosions and people started    running for cover. But within seconds there was a major blast   and there were dead bodies scattered everywhere,” witness   Hussain Ahmed said. “It was very terrifying.”

The Salarzais are a major regional anti-Taliban tribe,   which     has been backing army operations against the militants.
Pakistan’s volatile ethnic Pashtun tribal lands on the   Afghan border have been infested with militants and the army   has mounted a series of operations to dislodge them.
Salarzai tribesmen have been instrumental in raising    lashkars, or tribal militia, to back the government’s   operations    against the militants.
Militants have attacked pro-government tribes in the past   to    punish them for supporting the government.
Hundreds of militants have been killed and many of their    strongholds captured but the insurgents have shown they are   able    to strike back and have killed hundreds of people in a campaign    of bomb attacks across the country.
Yesterday, about 150 Taliban militants staged simultaneous    attacks on five paramilitary checkpoints in the Baizai area of    the Mohmand tribal agency, killing 11 soldiers and wounding a    dozen, officials said.
At least 24 militants were killed in by defending    paramilitary forces. A Taliban spokesman confirmed clashes but    disputed the official death toll saying only two of their    fighters were killed.
Officials have claimed several times that militants have   been driven out of Bajaur. A senior military official in   October said it would take at least six months to clear   militants from Bajaur and Mohmand.

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