ISLAMABAD: A suicide bomber killed around 40 people at a mosque in north-west Pakistan on Friday.
“The death toll is 40. We have no idea as yet how many have been wounded,” said Atif-ur-Rehman, the senior-most government administrator in the Upper Dir district, close to Swat Valley, where the Army has been conducting a major offensive against the Taliban.
Umer Rehman, a resident of Hayagai village, around 200 km north-west of Islamabad, said the bomber struck as worshippers poured out of the mosque after Friday prayers. He said 12 of the 38 bodies identified by police were children.
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said such incidents would not “deter the government from its resolve to eliminate this scourge [of terrorism] from the country”.
The military says more than 1,200 militants and 90 soldiers have been killed since the Army swung into action in late April, while the militants have carried out bomb attacks in Lahore, and the north-western cities of Peshawar and Dera Ismail Khan.
Roadblocks have multiplied in recent days in both the capital and Rawalpindi, where the Army is headquartered, over fears of attacks in retaliation against the Swat offensive.
Police arrested suicide bombers in Islamabad and nearby Rawalpindi, Interior Minister Rehman Malik told journalists on Friday. The suspects were caught a day earlier with suicide jackets, but Mr. Malik did not say how many. The News daily reported four men were being held.
Hours after U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke visited Mardan district on Thursday to see camps set up for some of the 2.5 million people who have fled Swat, militants shot dead five policemen and a soldier after first targeting a convoy with a roadside bomb.