A suicide bomber at a mosque jammed with worshipers killed at least 40 people and injured 100 Friday in Pakistan’s restive tribal region along the Afghan border, one of the deadliest attacks in recent weeks in the country.
At least 400 people were in the mosque near the town of Jamrud in the Khyber tribal district when the bomber walked in and detonated his explosives, police and witnesses said. Khyber, the gateway to Afghanistan for NATO supply trucks, remains a stronghold for Taliban militants fighting the U.S.-allied Pakistani government.
Worshipers, who were at the mosque for Friday prayers, were on their way out when the bomber arrived, witnesses said. Samiullah, who goes by one name, said a young man whom he believes was the bomber cried out just before the blast.
Village elders said there was no security at the mosque.
Pakistani television showed the walls and ceiling of the mosque pockmarked with shrapnel. Bloodied prayer caps were piled on shelves. Most of the wounded suffered burns. Many were taken to hospitals in pickup trucks or cars because there were not enough ambulances.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
In the past, Taliban militants and allied groups have struck at mosques in northwestern Pakistan, particularly those believed to be affiliated with anti-Taliban tribes and militias. Last fall, a suicide bomber attacked a mosque in the town of Darra Adam Khel, where residents had formed a militia to resist Islamist militants. At least 60 people were killed in that attack.
Khyber is one of several areas in northwestern Pakistan where the military has launched offensives in an attempt to end Taliban-engineered suicide bombings and other terrorism that have ravaged the country in recent years. But many militants have been able to flee the operations well in advance and find haven in other areas of the tribal belt.
Elsewhere in the northwest, two missiles fired on suspected militants from a U.S. unmanned aircraft, or drone, killed four people in the South Waziristan tribal region Friday, local authorities said. The attack occurred in the village of Shin Warsak and struck a house where militants were believed to have gathered.
Proponents of the drone strikes say they are an effective means of targeting Taliban and Al Qaeda militants in Pakistani tribal areas without significant risk to civilians, but Pakistanis have strongly criticized the tactic as violating the country’s sovereignty.
Times staff writer Rodriguez reported from Islamabad and special correspondent Ali from Peshawar.
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