At least 40 people have been killed and more than 50 wounded in a suicide bomb attack in northwest Pakistan during the funeral of a local police official, officials said.
Many of the killed and wounded in the attack late on Friday were fellow policemen and relatives who had gathered for funeral prayers for Javed Iqbal, a deputy police superintendent, in his home region of Mangora in the volatile North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) when the attack occurred.
Islamic militants, who frequently target security forces in the province, were suspected of being behind the attack. "40 to 42 bodies have so far been moved to the hospital and more than 80 people are injured," said Shah Zaman, the mayor of Mangora town.
However, interior ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said he could only confirm 11 deaths. "That's the figure from the field. Many people were seriously injured, so it could rise," he said.
The funeral was held on the grounds of a local high school in Mangora, which lies in Swat district, where the Pakistani Army has been trying to flush out armed Islamic militants who had taken over dozens of villages in October 2007.
Friday morning, suspected Islamic militants killed Iqbal and three fellow policemen by targeting their vehicle with a remote- control bomb in the NWFP's Lucky Marwat district.
"He was leaving for the office from his residence when suspected militants targeted his vehicle with a remote control roadside bomb," said Hamza Masud, the district police chief.
Lucky Marwat lies close to Pakistan's lawless tribal areas, from where Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other armed militant groups control many villages.
Iqbal's son Ghazan and a cousin were among the killed in the attack at the funeral. The chief of local police station in Mangora, Habibul Zaman also died in the bombing.
Pakistan has suffered more than five dozen suicide attacks in the past 13 months that have killed more than 1,000 people in a campaign that escalated after Army commandos stormed the Red Mosque in Islamabad to end a siege by armed militants. Hundreds of people were believed to have died in the attack.
Opposition parties who swept to power in national elections on Feb 18 will immediately face the problem of Islamic militancy and suicide bombings that increased during the watch of embattled President Pervez Musharraf.