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Central & South Asia
Scores killed in Pakistan mosque blast
At least 48 people killed after suicide bomber targets place of worship in main town of Khyber Agency.
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2011 20:04
The Khyber bomb exploded as hundreds of people had gathered in the mosque[AFP]

At least 48 people have been killed and dozens more wounded after a blast ripped through a mosque in the Ghundai area of Khyber Agency, northwestern Pakistan.

Mutahir Zeb, the region's top government administrator, said the attack was carried out by a teenage boy who struck when worshippers were offering prayers on Friday.

"Many of the wounded succumbed to their injuries, adding to the toll that may rise further as there are still people in critical condition," Zeb said.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack in Jamrud, the main town in Khyber, but officials suspected the Taliban.

The mosque is located in an area inhabited by Kokikhel tribesmen, who are opposed to Taliban activity and have been fighting to push them out of their region.

"The blast could be a reaction to that," Zeb said.

The AP reported that about 300 people had been attending the prayers.

'Smoke, cries and blood'

Saleem Khan, a witness, said people panicked in an atmosphere of smoke, cries and blood immediately after the blast. He said that several people ran over him when he fell to the ground after being wounded.

"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."

Television footage from the scene showed prayer caps, shoes and green prayer mats scattered across a blood-spattered floor. Ceiling fans were twisted and the walls of the mosque blackened.


The injured were taken to various hospitals in nearby Peshawar, the provincial capital [EPA]

"The bomber was wearing about 8-10kg of explosives and was on foot. He detonated in the main prayer hall," said Khalid Mumtaz Kundi, the deputy chief of the district administration. He said that ball bearings had been found at the site of the blast.

Iftikhar Khan, an official at the Hayatabad Medical Complex in Peshawar, told AFP that 40 wounded people had been brought to that facility alone. Some of the wounded were also taken to the Khyber Teaching Hospital and the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar.

Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Islamabad, reported that the mosque was "jam-packed with worshippers" when the attack took place.

"The entire compound is said to have collapsed, many people are said to be buried under the rubble," he reported.

"There will of course be questions as to who could have carried out the attack. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan factions have said recently that they do not carry out attacks on mosques, so it will be interesting to see if there is any claim of responsibility at all," Hyder said.

Khyber agency is strategically located along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and is also adjacent to Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber-Pakthunkhwa province.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies.
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