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News, August 2011

 
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Editorial Note: The following news reports are summaries from original sources. They may also include corrections of Arabic names and political terminology. Comments are in parentheses.

 
43 Pakistani Muslim Worshippers Killed, 40 Injured in Mosque Bombing, 4 Killed in US Drone Missile Strike

August 19, 2011

Pakistan mosque suicide bomber kills 43

By Lehaz Ali

 AFP August 19, 2011

 

A suicide bomber struck a crowded Pakistan mosque on Friday, killing 43 people and wounding more than 100 during Ramadan prayers, in the country's deadliest attack for three months.

Blood was splattered across the mosque's main hall and walls, while the building's doors and windows were destroyed and its ceiling fans mangled by the blast, according to an AFP reporter at the site.

Ball bearings used in the suicide vest were also scattered across the mosque in Jamrud town, 25 kilometres (16 miles) from Peshawar, the main city in the Khyber tribal district where much of the violence in Pakistan is concentrated.

The attack took place came as a US drone strike killed four militants in the northwestern tribal area of Pakistan.

More than 500 people had packed into the mosque and a senior official from the Khyber tribal district administration Sayed Ahmed Jan told AFP that the bomb had exploded seconds after the main prayer ended.

The deputy chief of the semi-autonomous administration said that 43 people had been killed and 117 wounded.

"It was a suicide attack. The bomber was wearing about 8-10 kg of explosives and was on foot. He detonated in the main prayer hall," said Khalid Mumtaz Kundi.

Top administration official Mutahar Zeb told AFP that the injured had been taken to nearby hospitals while a bomb disposal squad was at the scene.

Witness Gul Jamal Afridi, 46, a local truck driver told AFP that he had been thrown to the ground in the intensity of the blast.

"I saw smoke and fire. People were dying and crying for help, some were running in panic. I saw body parts and human flesh, it was horrible," he said.

Student Saqib Ullah, 24, said he had tried to help those lying near him after the bomb went off, but found most were already dead.

"I saw my uncle lying in a pool of blood. I ran towards him and picked him up to carry on my back, but he had already died," he said.

Like the rest of the Muslim world, Pakistan is observing the holy month of Ramadan in which faithful fast from dawn to dusk.

Iftikhar Khan, an official at the Hayatabad Medical Complex in Peshawar told AFP that 40 wounded people had been rushed there alone.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Friday's bomb was the deadliest since May 13 when two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside a police training centre in a town about 30 kilometres north of Peshawar killing 98 people.

Meanwhile, a US drone fired two missiles, hitting a house in the Shin Warsak area of South Waziristan, part of the notorious tribal badlands that Washington calls a global headquarters of Al-Qaeda, the Pakistani officials told AFP.

"Two missiles were fired at the house of a tribal elder where local militants were present," one security official told AFP on the condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to media.

"Four dead bodies have been recovered and two are injured," the official added.

Shin Warsak is 15 kilometres (nine miles) west of Wana, the main town of the district of South Waziristan, considered a militant stronghold.

The security official said initial reports suggested that a group of local militants linked to Taliban commander Mullah Nazir were present in the house at the time of the attack.

Two other Pakistani intelligence officials confirmed the drone strike and death toll.

The attacks come as Pakistan's biggest city, Karachi, is undergoing a fresh wave of ethnic, criminal and politically-linked unrest that has left at least 52 people dead in the past 48 hours.

Suicide bomber kills 40 in Pakistan mosque

Aug 19, 2011, 8:48 AM EDT

By RIAZ KHAN Associated Press

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) --

A suicide bomber struck a mosque in a Pakistani tribal region during Friday prayers, officials said, killing at least 40 people and wounding 85 others in the deadliest attack in the country in recent weeks.

The attack came during the holy month of Ramadan, a time of fasting, sharing and heightened community spirit for Muslims.

No group immediately claimed responsibility.

The mosque hit Friday is in Ghundi, a village in the Khyber tribal region, a part of Pakistan's tribal belt. Khyber has long been a base for Islamist militants, and the Pakistani army has waged multiple operations aimed at pacifying the region but with limited success.

Khyber also is a key region for the U.S. and NATO, because a large portion of non-lethal supplies heading to U.S. forces in Afghanistan passes through it.

Some 300 people had gathered for prayers Friday afternoon in the Sunni mosque, and many were on their way out when the explosion occurred, local administrator Iqbal Khan said.

"All the evidence we have gathered confirms that it is a suicide attack," said Fazal Khan, another local official who also confirmed the casualty figures. He said witnesses alleged the bomber was a young man.

Saleem Khan, 21, said people panicked after the blast, and that amid the smoke, cries and blood, several ran over him when he fell.

"Whoever did it in the holy month of Ramadan cannot be a Muslim," he said from a hospital bed in the main northwest city of Peshawar. "It is the cruelest thing any Muslim would do."

TV footage from the scene showed a heavily damaged building. Prayer caps, shoes and green prayer mats were scattered across a blood-splattered floor, while ceiling fans were twisted and walls blackened. Men comforted a young boy who wept as he held his hand to his heart.

The attack appeared to be the deadliest since twin bombings in mid-June killed around 40 people in Peshawar.

Also Friday, two U.S. missiles struck a house in a tribal region that was once a Pakistani Taliban stronghold, killing four people, intelligence officials said.

The strike came as Pakistani-U.S. relations are struggling since the unilateral American raid that killed bin Laden in the northwest Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad. The continued missile attacks, which Pakistan officially opposes, suggests Washington considers the tactic too valuable to give up.

Though Pakistan objects to the covert, CIA-run missile program, it is believed to have aided it at times. The U.S. rarely acknowledges the program.

The two missiles hit a house Friday in Sheen Warsak village in the South Waziristan tribal area, according to two Pakistani intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

The identities of the dead were not immediately clear. Although U.S. officials insist the vast majority of victims in the strikes are militants, Pakistanis and some human rights activists have said civilians are often caught up in the attacks.

South Waziristan is a lawless stretch of rugged territory that was largely under the control of the Pakistani Taliban until October 2009, when the country's army launched an operation against the insurgents. However, militant activity is still occasionally reported in the region.

It is nearly impossible to independently verify the information from the region because access is heavily restricted.

--

Associated Press writers Asif Shahzad and Rasool Dawar contributed to this report from Islamabad.




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