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Central & South Asia
Many dead in Pakistan funeral blast
At least 37 killed and another 40 wounded as bomber blows himself up among mourners in the country's northwest.
Last Modified: 09 Mar 2011 16:02 GMT

A suicide bomber has attacked a funeral procession in Matani, 20km west of the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, killing at least 37 people and  injuring at least 40 others, according to a government official.

Siraj Ahmed, Peshawar's chief administrator, told the Reuters news agency that Wednesday's attack targeted the funeral for the wife of Hakim Khan, a known anti-Taliban Pashtun tribal elder, in Adezai village.

The attacker slipped into the congregation of more than 200 people attending the funeral prayers before setting off his explosives, Ahmed said.

"As we are readying for prayers, a boy wrapped in a shawl headed towards us. People shouted to the imam (prayer leader) to wait for him to join us but as he came close he blew himself up," Mehmood Shah, a witness said.

Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder reported that the death toll may rise as "a number of wounded are said to be in serious condition".

Hakim Khan, was instrumental in raising a militia force, known as a 'lashkar', with the support of the government to fight Taliban operatives.

It was not immediately clear if Khan had been killed or wounded in the explosion.

Tribal peace committees

Like in other parts of the northwest, Matani is home to several tribal armies that fight against the Taliban and get some government support.

Taliban fighters have often targeted members of these tribal peace committees.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Zahir Shah, bureau chief of Pakistan's Dawn News, said that "most of those who got killed appear to be members of the peace committee.

"The injured have been rushed to a hospital in Peshawar."

The attack came a day after a car-bomb went off at at a natural gas filling station in the central city of Faisalabad killing 25 people and wounding about 125 others.

Our correspondent reported that the "tribal peace committee is a voluntary force that has been battling the Pakistani Taliban".

"There was a lull over the past few months but we have seen an escalation in attacks which is perhaps indicative of the fact that the Pakistani Taliban have regrouped."

"In the past week alone, up to a 100 people have been killed and twice that number wounded, in similar attacks by Pakistani Taliban."

Taliban fighters have claimed responsibility for Wednesday's attack.

"These lashkars are raised to create chaos instead of maintaining peace," Ehsanullah Ehsan, a Taliban spokesman, told the Reuters news agency by telephone from an undisclosed location.

"The lashkars and the army are fighting us at the behest of the Americans. We will continue attacks on them," he said.

Dilawar Khan, a militia commander, told the Associated Press news agency that he would consult his fighters and local elders on whether or not to continue battling the Taliban. He said that the government did not provide the lashkar with enough protection, a charge echoed by Farman Ullah, a witness of Wednesday's attack.

"It was the duty of the government to provide us security, but it did not do it," he said.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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