In the latest in a string of Islamist militant attacks aimed at undermining Pakistan's US-backed government, a suicide bomber has killed 37 and injured 45 during a funeral prayer in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
The blast struck as anti-Taliban militiamen were at a funeral
A suicide bomber targeting members of an anti-Taliban militia at a funeral in northwestern Pakistan killed at least 37 people and wounded 45 others on Wednesday.
The congregation of about 150 people was attending funeral prayers for the wife of an anti-Taliban militiaman in Adezai village, near the city of Peshawar.
Siraj Ahmed, Peshawar's top administrator, told Reuters that the attacker had mingled with the mourners before setting off his explosives. He said victims included members of a tribal militia that locals had formed to expel Taliban militants from the area.
At least 45 people were injured and rushed to hospital
Television footage showed elderly men with bloodstained clothes rushing from the scene in panic. Prayer caps and slippers lay alongside scattered body parts at the prayer site, which was spattered with blood.
"Some of the dead are in pieces. Eleven of the injured are in a very critical condition," Abdul Hameed Afridi, the head of Peshawar city’s main hospital, told AFP.
Anti-Taliban militia targeted
"The target of the bombing were members of the anti-Taliban militia," police officer Mohammad Ijaz Khan confirmed. "We have sent teams to remove the bodies and shift the injured to the hospital," he added.
A witness, Gul Akbar, told AFP that the village, which is close to the lawless tribal region of Darra Adam Khel, had been attacked several times. "We have had several fights with them (militants) but we cannot stop the suicide attacks. We need the government's help to stop them," he said.
Pakistan's PM has said the government will root out the cancer of terrorism
Hamyun Khan, a member of the village pro-government militia, was standing in the last row when the bomb exploded. "The blast was so severe and huge that I still feel deaf," he said.
He also complained that Islamabad had not provided enough arms and police to deal with the militant threat and blamed it for "such incidents."
Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the attack in a statement and reiterated the government's "resolve to root out the cancer of terrorism from every nook and corner of the country".
A wave of bomb attacks
This is the latest in a string of Islamist militant attacks aimed at undermining Pakistan's US-backed government. It came a day after militants set off a car-bomb at a natural gas station in the central city of Faisalabad, near the office of the military's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, killing 25 people and wounding 135 others.
A Taliban spokesman accepted responsibility for Tuesday's bombing.
The Taliban often target the security forces in Pakistan, claiming many attacks in revenge for a covert campaign of US drone strikes in the tribal areas. The United States has never officially confirmed the controversial missile strikes.
More than 4,000 people have died in suicide and bomb attacks across Pakistan in the past three years, many in the northwest near the border with Afghanistan, where the military is battling al Qaeda-linked Pakistani Taliban insurgents.
Editor: Anne Thomas