PESHAWAR: Fifteen persons were killed and over 40 sustained injuries when a suicide bomber blew himself up minutes after the funeral prayers for a woman in Mamakhel area of Badaber village, 12 kilometres south of the provincial capital, on Sunday morning.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Deputy Speaker Khushdil Khan, who was the apparent target, had just left the place after the Namaz-e-Janaza when the explosion occurred.
Peshawar’s District Coordination Officer (DCO), Siraj Ahmad, confirmed 15 deaths and said 37 others had been wounded. A police official said a young suicide bomber blew himself up close to the crowd outside the funeral ground soon after people performed the last rituals of the wife of a villager, Imdadullah.
The family members said the woman was “accidentally” shot dead by her son Adnan.The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Darra Adamkhel chapter spokesman Muhammad phoned reporters in Peshawar and Kohat to claim responsibility for the attack. He said Deputy Speaker Khushdil Khan and the villagers were the target for raising a Lashkar, or armed force, against the militants.
Khushdil Khan was elected a member of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on the ticket of Awami National Party (ANP). Superintendent of Police (Rural), Kalam Khan, confirmed to the media personnel that the blast had been carried out by a suicide bomber. Officials of the bomb disposal unit (BDU) said body parts of the suicide bomber had been recovered from the spot. The bomber, according to the BDU experts, was carrying eight kilograms of explosives stuffed with ball bearings to cause maximum casualties. Human flesh was scattered all over the place after the blast while people were seen crying for help. Many of those busy rescuing the injured had to run for their lives when somebody shouted that another suicide bomber was in the area.
The blast also damaged some vehicles and motorbikes parked in a ground outside the funeral ground. Officials at the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) confirmed that 10 bodies had been received while five persons expired at the hospital. As many as 35 other wounded were being treated by the doctors and paramedics. Many injured people were taken to private hospitals due to the rush of attendants accompanying the wounded at the Casualty Department in LRH.
Those killed in the blast were identified as Iftikhar, Shahbaz, Ahmad Khan, Khaliqdad, Zarshad, Said Afridi, Hamid Khan, Raees Khan, Kamran, Mir Ahmad, Farman Ali and Khan Shah, all belonging to Badaber, while Sanaur Rahman was from Krishanpura area. One of the deceased, Hamid Khan, was a former president of the People’s Students Federation, Peshawar chapter.
A villager said the death toll was higher as several bodies had been charred beyond recognition. The funeral prayers for those killed were offered on Sunday evening amid strict security arrangements made by the police and villagers.
“Many people had gone and others were preparing to leave after offering condolences to the family members of the deceased woman when a young suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance of the funeral place,” said an eyewitness.
Another eyewitness, Noor Gul, said the funeral prayers were offered 10 minutes before the scheduled time. “I was leaving the place on my motorbike when the blast took place. After the smoke and dust settled, I saw myself thrown several metres away from my motorbike that had been destroyed in the blast,” he added.
People said the death toll could have been higher had the bomber struck during the funeral prayers as people stand close to each other during the Namaz-e-Janaza. The funeral prayer was offered ahead of the scheduled time, said some locals. Others, however, said the funeral prayer was offered before the scheduled 11:00am for security reasons as the area people have become a target of the insurgents for raising the anti-militants Lashkar. People transported the bodies and injured in their cars, pick-up trucks and other vehicles to the LRH before the ambulances could arrive at the scene. A state of emergency was declared at the LRH where doctors and paramedics were as usual making all-out efforts to save the lives of the critically wounded.
“Muslims, Pakistanis and Pakhtuns are being killed in these bombings everywhere and it pleases the anti-Islam forces,” stated a crying villager who had brought his wounded brother to the LRH. He said the people would now avoid attending funeral prayers if these were targeted in such a way.
Deputy Speaker Khushdil Khan hinted that the blast could be a reaction to the military operation in Khyber Agency. “The Protector (God) is more powerful than the killers and that is why I escaped unhurt,” he added.
Villagers in Matani, Adezai, Badaber and Bazidkhel have raised anti-militant Lashkars with the support of the incumbent and former elected representatives. The Lashkar leaders and villagers in these areas have frequently come under militants’ attacks in the recent past.
Agencies add: President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Speaker National Assembly Dr Fehmida Mirza, Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi, Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Barrister Masood Kausar, Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif condemned the suicide blast in which innocent people lost their lives.
In their separate statements, they said such acts of cowardice could not deter the resolve of the government and people of Pakistan against the scourge of terrorism. They prayed that Almighty Allah rest the departed souls in eternal peace and grant courage to the bereaved families to bear the loss with equanimity.