At least 28 Taliban fighters and two Pakistani soldiers killed in Orakzai clashes.
At least 67 people have been killed and dozens of others injured after a 17-year-old suicide bomber struck a Sunni Muslim mosque in northwest Pakistan during Friday prayers, in the first of two attacks on mosques in the region.
The blast collapsed part of the mosque’s roof on top of worshippers, and there are fears the death toll from the explosion could rise. A local official in Darra Adam Khel, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said 11 children were among the dead, Dawn newspaper reported.
The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Pakistan Taliban Movement, claimed responsibility for the attack, which was not the first against the mosque, Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder reported.
The suicide bomber’s explosives weighed between 10 to 15kg, he said.
Darra Adam Khel is a town renowned for its arm bazaar and located around 40km south of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, formerly known as North West Frontier Province.
A second attack struck another mosque later on Friday in Badabher, a town near Peshawar, killing at least three people and wounding at least 20 others.
The imam of the mosque was killed after the attackers threw three hand grenades into the mosque during evening prayers, AP reported.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has experienced continual violence over the past year and a half, as Pakistan’s government has battled Taliban and other pro-Taliban groups on the country’s porous border with Afghanistan.
“There is a steady pattern emerging, and mosques are not spared,” Hyder said.
He said the attacks on religious sites are causing widespread anger in Pakistan.
“[The Taliban] have been dislodged from many areas … [they] are not able to regroup and challenge the writ of the government,” Hyder said.
“It’s more guerrilla tactics. They’re choosing targets of opportunity, soft targets at that.”
Darra Adam Khel lies on a highway that serves as a main conduit between Peshawar and scenes of heavier fighting to the south in North and South Waziristan, regions that lie in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
Around 3,800 people have been killed in suicide attacks and bombings since government troops raided the Red Mosque in Islamabad in 2007, according to Dawn.
A member of a local anti-Taliban militia, or lashkars, reportedly attended the mosque in Darra Adam Khel – a possible motive for the attack.
The absence of a hospital in or near the town meant that residents had to transport bombing victims up the highway to Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar.
Haji Razaq Khan, a member of Pakistan’s senate from Darra Adam Khel, said that Malik Wali Khan, a local tribal elder who had been encouraging people to stand against the Taliban, used a guest room next to the mosque and may have been the target, the Associated Press reported.
It was not immediately clear whether Malik Wali Khan had been hurt.
Khalid Umarzai, a regional administration chief, suggested the attack could have been in retaliation for military operations in the area targeting fighters.
In October, a bomb attack at a Sunni mosque on the outskirts of Peshawar killed three people and wounded 22. It also occurred during Friday prayers.