PESHAWAR/DARRA ADAMKHEL: Terrorists struck on Friday when a suicide bomber blew himself up prior to prayers in Masjid Wali Muhammad in Akhurwal area of the volatile Darra Adamkhel semi-tribal region, killing over 70 people and wounding more than 100.
Eyewitnesses said over 200 tribesmen were preparing for the Friday prayers in the Wali Muhammad mosque in Atariwal in Darra Adamkhel’s Akhurwal village, located around 35 kilometres south of Peshawar, when a bomber in his late teens blew himself up at 1:40 pm.
A part of the beautifully built and spacious mosque caved in due to the impact of the blast. Eyewitnesses said body parts were scattered all over the place in pools of blood and those wounded were thrown in different directions.
Before the Edhi ambulances and teams of Rescue 1122 could arrive in the remote tribal area, the local people carried out the rescue work and rushed the bodies and injured in private vehicles to the local hospital in Zarghunkhel. The critically wounded were shifted to the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) in Peshawar and other hospitals in Kohat.
A large number of women and children of the town were seen carrying the bodies of their loved ones and crying for help as most of the males had been killed or wounded in the explosion.
District Coordination Officer (DCO), Kohat, Shahidullah, confirmed the death of around 70 people and injuries to another 70 in the devastating explosion. Sources in security forces said the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Tariq Afridi group had claimed responsibility for the attack. Muhammad, a spokesman for the group, phoned reporters in Kohat and other places from an unknown location to claim responsibility for the attack. Taliban sources said the attack was aimed at spies working against their group.
Troops of the Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps as well as the local tribal Khassadar Force cordoned off the area after the explosion. The troops took positions in the nearby hills and on the rooftops to counter another possible attack. There were reports that three suicide bombers might strike following the mosque bombing.
Aerial firing was heard with short intervals to keep the mob away from the site of the attack. Members of the media were also not allowed to enter the mosque for almost three hours. Kohat Commissioner Khalid Khan Umerzai said the blast was a suicide attack and the bomber had come on foot. While confirming the death of 67 people, Khalid Khan feared more deaths as many among the injured were said to be in critical condition.
An official said 26 bodies were kept in the Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar, while another 23 were in the government-run Zarghunkhel Hospital in Darra Adamkhel. Many bodies were disfigured beyond recognition.
“About 95 wounded people are being treated at the LRH where a state of emergency has been declared,” said Dr Shiraz, director of the Accident and Emergency Department at the public sector hospital in Peshawar. The bomb disposal unit (BDU) officials estimated that around 15 kilograms of high-intensity explosives with ball bearings and metal pieces were used in the blast.
The mosque was adjacent to the Hujra of Malik Wali Muhammad, a known pro-government tribal elder. Some security officials said the target might be Malik Wali Muhammad. Tribal sources said he was presently in Dubai.
Many of the blast victims were laid to rest in Akhurwal and adjoining places after their funeral prayers amid tight security. It was the worst day in the town’s history as it lost majority of its male dwellers in a single incident of violence. There were several families that lost more than one male member in the bombing.
Gloom and fear prevailed all over the town where most of the male residents were busy all day in hospitals with bodies and wounded people or digging graves in the local cemetery. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain, during a visit to the LRH, disclosed that the terrorists had planned to carry out such attacks on every Friday but they mostly failed in their bid due to strict security arrangements.
“Action has been taken on several occasions in the area and the network of terrorists has been weakened to a great extent. We will continue our Jihad against the terrorists and such acts cannot stop us from doing so,” said Mian Iftikhar, who lost his only son in a case of target killing some months ago in his native Pabbi town in Nowshera.
Senior Minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour, who along with Mian Iftikhar belongs to the ruling ANP, ruled out talks with the militants, saying the government could never sit with those killing innocent people in mosques. He was critical of some political parties, particularly the religious ones, for pleading for talks with the terrorists and asked them to unite in the fight against terrorism.
Bashir Bilour deplored that some political parties were not condemning and opposing terrorism openly and that they were afraid of terrorists or were their supporters. He said peace could never be restored in Fata, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the rest of Pakistan till restoration of peace in Afghanistan.
APP adds from Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar have strongly condemned the suicide blast during the Jumma prayers in a mosque in Darra Adamkhel.
In their separate statements, they expressed deep shock and grief over the sad incident, saying the fight against terrorists will continue till their complete elimination. The US embassy in Pakistan also condemned the suicide blast in Darra Adamkhel mosque. A US embassy statement said by attacking a place of worship, whoever was responsible has demonstrated a clear disregard for the Pakistani people and for the peaceful religion they practice.