Twin suicide bombers wearing police uniforms killed 40 people in Pakistan’s tribal badlands today, attacking an anti-Taliban militia and pro-government elders near the Afghan border.
The bombers damaged an administration compound in Ghalanai, the main town in the district of Mohmand, about 175 kilometres northwest of Islamabad and which has been hard hit by violence.
A purported Pakistani Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack, threatening death to anyone who forms militias against the militants.
Survivor Sakhi Jan, a 50-year-old member of the peace committee with injuries to his hand, said “double blasts rocked everything around”.
“Tribesmen and elders had been sitting in small groups on the lawn outside the office of the political agent,” said Shuja Ahmed, another committee member.
Amjad Ali, a senior administration official in Mohmand district, said 40 people were killed and 60 wounded, with 25 in a serious condition.
“The bombers were wearing tribal police uniform. One of them blew himself up at the main gate and the second in the office,” Mr Ali said.
At least 10 government officials and two television journalists - Abdul Wahab from Express, and Pervez Khan from Waqt - were among the dead, he said.
Washington considers Pakistan’s lawless northwestern tribal belt a global headquarters of al Qa’eda and the area is the focus of a covert American drone war targeting senior Taliban militant commanders.
More than 100 people were believed to have been in the compound where government officials, allied tribal elders and members of local anti-Taliban militia were meeting as the bombers struck on Wednesday.
Local official Maqsood Amin said the building was badly damaged.
“At least two rooms and a veranda were demolished,” he said.
Pakistan has long armed and supported tribesmen in a key strategy designed to protect local communities from Taliban encroachments across the northwest.
Doctor Jahangir Khan at the local hospital in Ghalanai said 31 corpses had been brought in after the attacks and confirmed that 60 were wounded.
It was the second suicide attack in five months targeting Mohmand tribal elders allied to the government. On July 9, a suicide car bomb attack killed 105 people in the town of Yakaghund, also in the region.