Suicide bombing strike at Pakistani mosque kills 50 (Second Lead)

March 27th, 2009 - 7:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Peshawar, March 27 (DPA) A suicide bomber Friday killed at least 50 people and wounded dozens more when he blew himself up in a crowded mosque in north-western Pakistan near the Afghan border, officials said.
The bomber struck the mosque located next to a checkpoint of the tribal police near the town of Jamrud in the Khyber region when up to 250 people were offering Friday prayers.

“Fifty people have been confirmed dead while several people are still buried under the rubble,” Tariq Hayat Khan, the top government administrator of the Khyber tribal district, told reporters.

More than 125 wounded people were taken to hospital.

Authorities feared the death toll could rise because many of the injured were in critical condition. “The death toll could go as high as 70,” Khan said.

According to media reports, some security personnel were also among the dead and wounded.

Television footage showed a large number of locals and police trying to rescue the trapped victims by digging through the debris of the two-storeyed mosque, which collapsed in the powerful explosion.

Falling concrete blocks also damaged some cars parked outside the mosque, which was located on the main highway connecting Pakistan’s north-western region to Afghanistan. The road link was closed to traffic after the blast.

“The infidel blew himself up among the assembly as the mosque cleric began the prayers,” Khan said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, but Khan indirectly blamed the Taliban militants, saying they had vowed to take revenge after the security forces flushed them out of Khyber in recent months.

The Khyber tribal district borders Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province, and hosts a key land route serving US and NATO troops fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan.

Persistent attacks carried out on trucks hauling food and military supplies into Afghanistan had prompted the authorities to launch military operations against the militants holed up in the area, and those operations were lately supported by the local population.

“We will not let the blood of our brethren go in vain,” Khan said as he pledged to use full force against the militants, adding that security personnel had been told “to shoot the miscreants on sight”.

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