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30 injured in Pakistan suicide attack

A suicide bomber attacked the offices of a pro-Taliban group at a madrassa in Pakistan, wounding 30 people.

world Updated: May 01, 2008 23:05 IST

AFP
Hindustantimes
         

A suicide bomber attacked the offices of a pro-Taliban group at a madrassa in northwest Pakistan on Thursday, local officials said, wounding 30 people.

Only the bomber was killed in the attack at the Islamic seminary in the Khyber tribal district, local official Rafaqat Gul said, revising an earlier toll of 10 dead given by senior security officials based in nearby Peshawar.

It was the second attack in a week in Pakistan, which has been plagued by a wave of unprecedented militant violence in the past year.

Bombs including suicide attacks blamed on pro-Taliban groups unhappy with Pakistan's alliance with the United States in the global war against terrorism have killed nearly 1,100 people in the past 15 months.

The attack on Thursday targeted the offices of Tanzeem Amar Bil-maruf wal Nahi Al-munkar (Organisation for the Promotion of Virtue and Suppression of Vice), led by pro-Taliban cleric Haji Namdar, who escaped unharmed.

"The bomber entered the madrassa and blew himself up among dozens of people," Gul told AFP.

The blast occured in the remote mountainous neighbourhood of Takia Chowk in Khyber, a known hub of pro-Taliban militant groups.

Earlier, two high-ranking security officials based in the provincial capital Peshawar said 10 people had been killed and 15 others wounded in the attack.

"The first report we received after the blast said 10 people were killed and around a dozen wounded," one security official said. Another official confirmed the account.

Witnesses said hundreds of people had gathered at the madrassa for morning lessons on the Koran, the Muslim holy book, followed by a fund-raising event for Taliban fighters in neighbouring Afghanistan.

"As people were handing out their contributions, a boy aged around 17 stood up with a pistol in his hand, pretending to offer the weapon as a donation," one witness, Mohammad Yaqub, told AFP.

"Then he suddenly blew up, I fell on the floor and fainted," said Yaqub, who sustained stomach wounds.

"I saw blood everywhere. I was also covered in blood and I thought many people were killed and I was lucky that I was still alive," another witness, Haji Awal Khan, told AFP.

"It was a very powerful explosion. People were lying on the floor in a pool of blood."

Last Friday, four people including two policemen were killed in a car bombing in the northwestern city of Mardan, ending an almost six-week lull in militant attacks in Pakistan.

Local officials said it was the first attack on a pro-Taliban outfit which could be linked to a turf rivalry between rebel groups in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan, where Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants are active.

Two United Nations employees were kidnapped in the region by Taliban-linked militants last week. They were later rescued in an operation by local militia and paramilitary troops.

Sources said Haji Namdar's group was unhappy over the kidnapping episode and warned Taliban elements from nearby South Waziristan tribal district, loyal to top commander Baitullah Mehsud, to refrain from such activities in his areas.

"Today's suicide attack could be an outcome of this rivalry," a source in his group said.

Pakistani forces have fought increasingly fierce battles against Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in the tribal belt since 2003.