Peshawar/Islamabad: A suicide bomber drove his explosives-laden vehicle into a crowded volleyball playground in northwest Pakistan today, killing at least 89 people and injuring over 80 others, marking a bloody start to the new year.
The attack occurred at Shah Hasankhel village, located 25 km from Lakki Marwat in the southern part of North West Frontier Province. A large crowd was watching a volleyball game between two local teams when the bomber struck at 5.30 pm.
At least 89 bodies and 83 injured people were taken to a hospital in Lakki Marwat, Geo News channel reported.
In a separate attack, a tribal elder associated with an anti-Taliban militia and five others were killed when the vehicle they were travelling in was targeted with a roadside bomb in the restive Bajaur region.
The bomber drove his car onto the field and detonated the explosives, district police chief Ayub Khan said. Over 20 nearby houses and several shops collapsed and several people were feared to be stilled buried in the debris, he said.
The attack might have been in retaliation for efforts by residents of Shah Hasankhel to keep the Taliban out of the area. "The village was a stronghold of militants and the local people set up a militia and expelled militants from the area. The attack seems to be a reaction (by the militants)," Khan said.
The explosion also triggered a fire that was controlled late in the night. Local residents joined security and emergency service personnel in conducting rescue operations and digging out people from the rubble. Some of the injured were taken to Bannu and Peshawar cities.
Police chief Khan said over 300 kg of explosives could have been used in the attack.
A member of a pro-government "peace committee" that cooperated with security forces to drive militants out of the area, Mushtaq Marwat, said the blast destroyed numerous houses and several shops. A mosque where members of the peace committee were meeting was damaged, he said.
The peace committee had received several threats from militants after they were driven out of Shah Hasankhel about three months ago, Marwat said.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack but police officials said they suspected the Taliban were behind the assault as local residents had cooperated with security forces in the operation against militants.
Friday's attack was the latest in a series of devastating suicide bombings across Pakistan that has killed over 500 people since October last year.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the attack and said such terrorist acts would not weaken his government s resolve to fight terrorism till it is completely eliminated.
Tribal elder Malik Gul Shah Ali Khan and five others, including a minor boy, died when the vehicle was targeted with a remote controlled bomb in Salarzai sub-division of Bajaur Agency this morning, officials of the local administration said.
In Hangu district of the North West Frontier Province, two militants were killed while planting a bomb, police said.
The militants were planting the bomb beside a road when it went off with a loud bang. Both men were killed instantly. Police took their bodies into custody.
Meanwhile, at least eight militants were killed in US drone attacks in the troubled North Waziristan tribal region, a Taliban stronghold.
A missile fired by a drone struck a vehicle near Navana village in Mirali sub-division this morning, killing three militants.
Five militants were killed last night when a drone fired two missiles at a compound at Machikhel village in Mirali.