The death toll from Thursday’s suicide bombing on a funeral congregation in Lower Dir, believed to be a revenge attack by the Taliban, has risen to 45, according to the police.
District police officer Lower Dir, Saleem Marwat told The Express Tribune, police was investigating the attack on influential anti-Taliban figure, Malik Bakht Sultan’s funeral and at least 29 suspects have been rounded up. Eighty-one people have been injured in the bombing.
A police official from Samar Bagh said some of the injured had died of their wounds in hospitals. A police official and a paramilitary soldier were also among the injured. “Police have made strict security arrangements following the blast,” he said. “There was no prior intelligence of a suicide attack, but the security situation is always a bit tense in areas close to the Pak-Afghan border.”
Another official of Dir police said that Malik Bakht Sultan was a nephew of the late Malik Muhammad Zarin, a prominent anti-Taliban figure in Kunar province of Afghanistan and Jandol in Lower Dir. Malik Zarin was the chief of the Mashwani tribe, living on both sides of the Durand Line and he and his son were killed in a suicide attack in April this year in Asmar, Kunar.
Malik Zarin, a former Mujahideen commander, was a former governor of Kunar and a minister for forests in the Afghan government. He was a dual national of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Before his death, Malik Zarin was heading a peace council in Kunar.
The suicide bomber had in all probability intentionally targeted Malik Zarin’s family since Malik Bakht Sultan was his nephew, local sources told The Express Tribune. The source said Malik Zarin, a close ally of President Hamid Karzai, was staunchly anti-Taliban from the first. “When Pakistan extended diplomatic recognition to the hardline Taliban regime in Afghanistan, Malik Zarin was the first tribal chief to protest against it.” Malik Zarin had also fought against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Sources said the Mashwani tribe had not raised any lashkar but Malik Zarin’s family can call upon hundreds of volunteers to take up arms. He said that almost all of those killed in Thursday’s attack were Mashwani tribesmen. The Mashwani tribe is native of Khost and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan, and upper parts of Jandol tehsil, including Meskini and Bin Shahi.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2011.
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