Deaths in northwest Pakistan bomb attack

At least 14 members of peace jirga killed while travelling in bus in Lower Dir, near Afghanistan border, police say.

    Deaths in northwest Pakistan bomb attack
    Local officials said that the van was targeted because members of a local anti-Taliban group were on board [AFP]

    At least 14 people have died in a roadside bomb attack in northwestern Pakistan near the Afghanistan border, police officials say.

    Sunday's blast hit a vehicle believed to be carrying members of a peace jirga, and injured at least four people.

    Ejaz Abid, a senior police officer, said the blast struck a passenger van in the Jandol area of the Lower Dir district.

    Among the dead were three women and three children, the police said.

    Abid said the bomb was planted on the dirt road connecting border villages with the town of Munda and the Bajaur tribal region.

    It was detonated when the van loaded with passengers was near Jandol around 7.00am local time (02:00 GMT), he said. The injured passengers were rushed to a hospital, where some were in serious condition.

    Lower Dir district has seen several bomb and gun attacks, sometimes launched from across the border, by local anti-state fighters.

    People in the area have been supporting government forces against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

    A spokesman for the TTP said the attack was launched in revenge after villagers formed a pro-government militia. He said such attacks would continue.

    "We have informed them of the repercussions of supporting the government but they didn't stop backing the armed forces," Sirajuddin Ahmad, a Taliban spokesman, told the Reuters news agency by telephone from an undisclosed location.

    A government official from the area said those killed were all civilians and none was a member of either the militia or the armed forces.

    Dilawar Khan, a survivor, said he heard a huge blast, and the passengers suddenly dived to the ground.

    "There was a big bang and we all were lying here and there ... I was listening to people's cries but unable to see anything as dust and smoke engulfed the air ... Then I found myself in the hospital with my leg and hand bandaged,'' said Khan.

    History of violence

    In 2009, the Pakistani military launched a major military operation against Taliban fighters controlled by Maulana Fazlullah, who for two years had held sway over parts of Dir and the adjoining Swat valley.

    Dir borders the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, where a number of  security officials believe Fazlullah and some of his fighters sought refuge.

    After heavy fighting that displaced an estimated two million people, the army declared the Swat region back under control in July 2009, and said the rebels had all been killed, captured or had fled.

    However, there have since been sporadic outbreaks of violence in Swat and Dir.

    The government has been trying to encourage tourists to return to Swat, which was once popular with Pakistani and Western holidaymakers for its stunning mountains, balmy summer weather and winter skiing.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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