Bombs exploded outside two mosques in a village in north-western Pakistan on Friday, killing at least 13 people, underlining the challenge of militant violence facing a new government led by Nawaz Sharif set to take power.
The blasts at the two Sunni Muslim mosques also wounded 45 people, said tribal police officer Badshah Rehman. Both of the mosques were badly damaged, and the roof of one of them collapsed.
The mosques were located in Baz Darrah village in Malakand district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Mr. Rehman said.
Shahid Ali, who was in the first mosque that was attacked, said the explosion came just as worshippers were starting Friday prayers.
“I rushed out with others and saw several people bleeding and crying,” Mr. Ali told The Associated Press by telephone. “There was dust and smoke around.”
Mr. Ali rushed to the second mosque after it was attacked and saw that its roof had caved in and it was on fire.
“Many people are buried under the rubble,” he said.
Rescue workers were trying to retrieve the dead and injured from the debris, Mr. Rehman said.
No one has claimed responsibility for the blasts, but suspicion will likely fall on the Pakistani Taliban.
The Sunni militant group has been waging a bloody insurgency against the Government for years that has killed thousands of civilians and security personnel. The militants have attacked Sunni mosques in the past, perhaps because the worshippers did not follow their extremist brand of Islam.
The Pakistani army has mounted multiple operations against the militants in the northwest, but they have proven resilient and continue to carry out near-daily attacks.
The Taliban recently launched a series of attacks in the run-up to national elections on May 11 in an attempt to derail the vote. Pakistanis defied the militant group by coming out in large numbers to cast their ballots.
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N Party was the big winner in the election and appears set to form the next government. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party, led by former cricket star Imran Khan, is expected to form the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Both politicians have called for negotiations with the Taliban, and Mr. Khan has even said that Pakistani troops should stop battling the militants and pull out of areas of the northwest. Now he will face the challenge of applying his election platform to the challenges of governing one of Pakistan’s most violent areas.