Islamabad, Dec 26 (DPA) At least 46 people were killed and around 100 injured in Saturday’s suicide bombing carried out by a suspected female attacker in Pakistan’s restive tribal region, a government official said Sunday.
The bomber detonated her explosives in a crowd receiving food at a distribution centre run by UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Khar, the main town in Bajaur district, where government forces are fighting Taliban and Al Qaeda rebels.
Afif Khan, a medical officer at the main hospital in Khar, said that two more people died Sunday.
‘The total death toll now stands at 46, and 97 injured are still admitted to various hospitals. Two people have been discharged since they had minor injuries.’
Hundreds of people gathered to attend the burial ceremonies in four villages and Khar town. Seven among the dead were paramilitary troopers. The rest were from a pro-government Salarzai tribe which has raised a tribal militia – locally called lashkar – to fight the Taliban.
Dozens of people from both sides have died in the clashes since late 2008. The WFP said Sunday that it had closed all four food distribution programmes in Bajaur due to ‘security concerns’.
‘All other food distribution operations across northwest Pakistan will continue as usual,’ said WFP spokesman Amjad Jamal.
A Taliban spokesman late Saturday claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, saying the Salarzai tribe was being punished for its support for the government.
US President Barack Obama condemned as an ‘affront’ the suicide bombing in Pakistan.
‘Killing innocent civilians outside a World Food Programme distribution point is an affront to the people of Pakistan, and to all humanity,’ Obama said in a statement issued from Hawaii, where he is spending Christmas with his family.
‘The United States stands with the people of Pakistan in this difficult time, and will strongly support Pakistan’s efforts to ensure greater peace, security and justice for its people.’
Thousands of families displaced by fighting between the military and Taliban fighters rely heavily on food provided by the government and the UN World Food Programme.
The military announced last year that the area had been cleared of militants, but it is believed that the insurgents are hiding in the mountainous border regions, targeting the army and people in Bajaur and neighbouring Mohmand district for attacks.