A bomb blast in the northwestern Pakistani tribal area of Orakzai has killed at least 16 people and wounded 31 others, government officials say.
“Most of the dead and injured were returning from Friday prayers at a mosque,” Mehmood Aslam, a government official in the area, said. A Pakistani journalist and a paramilitary fighter were among the dead, said Fazal Qader, the regional deputy official.
The blast occurred near government and security offices in Kalaya, the capital of the semi-autonomous Orakzai region in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghan border.
It damaged one of the shops in the market, according to another local administrator, Javed Khan. Some of the wounded were in critical condition, he said.
Initially, the death toll stood at 10 with 23 people wounded but Khan said that six of those who were wounded later died at a hospital in Kalaya, increasing the death toll to 16. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
Security forces launched a major operation in Orakzai in March 2010 to push out fighters fleeing a military offensive in the nearby South Waziristan region on the Afghan border.
Orakzai was previously seen as a stronghold of Pakistani Taliban chief Hakeemullah Mehsud.
The military says several hundred Taliban fighters have been killed in Orakzai since 2010 and the area is under control. But despite losses, the fighters have since carried out several bomb and gun attacks in the area.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the tribal areas, a US drone fired two missiles into a compound, killing at least seven people, local intelligence officials told Al Jazeera.
The seven suspected fighters were killed in the Babar Ghar area, along the border between North and South Waziristan agencies, the officials said. Five others were injured in the attack on the house, which was destroyed.
Covert drone strikes are publicly criticised by the Pakistani government as a violation of sovereignty, but US officials say they are a vital, legal and ethical weapon in the war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Also on Friday, unidentified attackers fired rocket-propelled grenades at a paramilitary convoy in the southwestern Balochistan province, killing at least one soldier and wounding five others, police officials said.
Two vehicles were damaged in the attack, which took place in Turbat district, police official Babil Dashti said.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Baloch nationalists have waged a decades-long armed rebellion against the government for greater autonomy and a larger share of the province’s natural resources.