Suicide bomber kills 36 at funeral near Peshawar

About 300 people were attending the funeral for the wife a militiaman when the bomber struck in Matani, an area home to several tribal armies that battle the Taliban and receive government support for doing so.

A man stands next to sandals at the site of a suicide bomb attack on the outskirts of Peshawar March 9, 2011. A Taliban suicide bomber attacked a funeral in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday, killing 37 people in the latest in a string of Islamist militant attacks aimed at undermining Pakistan's U.S.-backed government.  REUTERS/Fayaz Aziz (PAKISTAN - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW IMAGES OF THE DAY) *** Local Caption ***  MKZ03_PAKISTAN-VIOL_0309_11.JPG
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PESHAWAR // A suicide bomber attacked a funeral attended by anti-Taliban militiamen in north-western Pakistan on Wednesday, killing at least 36 mourners and wounding more than 100 others, police and hospital officials said.

The blast took place close to the city of Peshawar, not far from the tribally administered regions that border Afghanistan where militants are at their strongest.

The area is home to several tribal armies that battle the Taliban and receive government support for doing so.

Like elsewhere in the north-west, the militias have been relentlessly targeted by the insurgents.

The police officer Zahid Khan said about 300 people were attending the funeral for the wife a militiaman in the Matani area when the bomber struck.

Television footage showed men picking up bloodied sandals and caps from a dusty, open space where mourners had gathered.

Witnesses said the bomber, who appeared to be in his late teenagers, showed up at the funeral just as it was about to begin.

"We thought this youth was coming to attend the funeral, but he suddenly detonated a bomb," said Syed Alam Khan, who survived the attack.

Another witness, Farman Ullah, complained that they had not received any security from the government or police for the funeral. "It was the duty of the government to provide us security, but it did not do it," he said.

Jamal Shah, a doctor at the main hospital in Peshawar, said so far it had received 36 bodies and more than 100 wounded in the blast.

Al Qa'eda and Taliban militants are waging a war against the Pakistani state from their bases in the north-west.

The army has launched several offensives against the militants, but has also encouraged the formation of private armies to help out in the fight.

While the ceding of authority to armed civilians has alarmed human rights groups, the state has praised the role of the militias in battling the militants or holding ground retaken from them.

Police in Peshawar said late last year that the armies in Matani were essential in stopping militant infiltration into the city.

The militiamen operate from heavily fortified compounds in the region, and have seen their influence rise as they get state backing for taking on the Taliban. In interviews in December, commanders complained they were not getting enough government help, but claimed to have wrested Matani from militant control.

The army says it is winning the war against militants, but bombings still regularly occur in much of the country.

On Tuesday, at least 20 people were killed in a car bombing in Punjab province.