Lower Dir: 27 killed as bomber strikes funeral — Video
TIMERGARA / PESHAWAR: A suicide bomber on Thursday struck a funeral in the remote Sadbar Killay in Lower Dir district, killing 27 people and injuring 67 others, police officials said.
The attack was carried out at the funeral of a local elder, Bakht Sultan, a close relative of Malik Muhammad Zarin, a former Afghan mujahideen commander who was assassinated in Kunar in a suicide blast in April this year. He maintained dual citizenship of Pakistan and Afghanistan and owned land in the Samarbagh area of Lower Dir where his family lives.
District Police Officer Lower Dir, Salim Marwat, confirmed the attack was a suicide attack that killed 27 people and injured 67 others. The death toll may go up as many injured are in critical condition, an official said requesting not to be named.
Taliban claimed responsibility for the deadly attack and said they carried out the blast to punish locals for raising a lashkar against them. Sirajuddin, the spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban, Malakand division and a lieutenant of the Swat Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah, phoned reporters from an undisclosed place to claim responsibility for the attack.
The attack signifies the Talibanís growing footprints in the area as they earlier claimed responsibility for a remote-controlled blast that killed a local leader of the Awami National Party in Lower Dirís Maidan area on Tuesday.
The military had claimed purging Maidan and other Lower Dir areas of militants in the 2009 operation. Though the militantsí strength diminished as a result of the military offensive, Lower Dir has continued to suffer sporadic attacks including suicide bombings.
The area attacked is sited close to the Afghanistan border. The Maulana Fazlullah-led militants who were evicted in military operations from Malakand division, particularly Swat, have now built sanctuaries in Afghanistanís Kunar province. They have been claiming responsibility for deadly attacks on border villages and posts in Lower Dir, Upper Dir and Chitral.
To deal with the challenge from across the Pak-Afghan border, a major troopsí deployment has been carried out in Upper Dir and Chitral districts this week.
Bakht Sultan, the deceased whose funeral was being offered, had died in a road accident in Rashakai on Wednesday. He is stated to be a nephew of Malik Zarin. Bakht Sultan was also a member of the lashkar that the residents had raised to fight Taliban militants, said his nephew Rashid Sadbar.
Eyewitnesses said the bomber detonated his suicide vest soon after the second Takbeer of the funeral prayer when it started at 2:30pm. ìThe blast went off with a deafening bang and the next moment only bodies and the injured were lying on the ground,î a wounded Gul Sadain, told The News from his bed in the District Headquarters Hospital in Timergara. ìI saw 15 to 18 bodies lying scattered on the ground,î he added. Gul Sadain said when they started the funeral prayer, someone from behind shouted that a suicide bomber had entered the congregation.
Being offered at a graveyard, Rashid Sadbar said, the funeral was attended by around 600 people. ìAlmost all people killed or injured belonged to Sadbar Killay,î he told The News by phone from his village. A number of children, he added, were killed in the blast but the exact toll wasnít known. He said the villagers had formed a lashkar and the deceased, Bakht Sultan, was its member.
Television images showed the site of the blast strewn with shoes, traditional caps and shawls. The powerful blast flung body parts and clothes of the victims onto the trees and electricity wires. Eyewitnesses said dust and smoke enveloped the venue for the funeral after the blast.
Locals and eyewitnesses said the number of injured exceeded 100. They were shifted to hospitals in Samarbagh and Timergara. An official at the hospital in Timergara said 58 injured had been brought there. He said several were in serious condition and were referred to hospitals in Peshawar. Forty injured were taken to the Samarbagh Hospital. Medical Superintendent of the hospital, Dr Muhammad Wakeel, said staff and medicine were available, but they faced security problems due to crowds streaming into the hospital.