TIMERGARA: At least 16 pro-government tribespeople, including three women, were killed and nine were wounded in a bomb attack on a passenger van in the volatile Lower Dir district on Sunday.
The banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan immediately claimed responsibility for the attack which, it said, was to punish the tribesmen for siding with the government against the militants.
The militants detonated an improvised explosive device when the passenger van drove past in Landi Shah area, officials said. The van was en route to Munda Bazaar from Enzaro Banda village.
“It was a remote-controlled bomb blast,” local police official Farman Khan told AFP. The vehicle was targeted because it was carrying tribespeople known to be pro-government.
The local administrator said security forces have successfully sealed the Pak-Afghan border following cross-border raids by Afghanistan-based militants.
“Now in their desperation, the militants are killing innocent civilians, women and children in particular,” Mehmood Aslam Wazir, the district coordination officer (DCO) of Lower Dir, told The Express Tribune.
According to witnesses, the blast occurred at 7:15am. “The bomb went off minutes after the van stopped in the area to convey a funeral message to the locals,” witness Lal Faqir said.
Residents spoke of grisly scenes at the blast site where human limbs were strewn and blood splattered all over. They said the deafening sound was heard within a radius of several kilometres.
A Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) official said the explosive device weighed around 15 kilogrammes. “The vehicle was turned into a heap of mangled metal, we have found the engine, though,” the BDS official, Jamshed, told The Express Tribune.
Some of the dead were identified as Muhammad Azeem, Wali Khan, Nasrullah, Attaullah, Shamooza, Gul Zameen, Asad Jan, Bakht Khan, Abbas Khan, Anwar Said Khan, Najeeb Khan, and three women. The injured were driven to the district headquarters hospital Timargara.
Medics at the hospital, however, said that some of the critically wounded people were referred to Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar.
The TTP claimed responsibility for the attack. “These people have raised a militia to help the security forces against us,” TTP spokesperson Sirajuddin told journalists in a phone call from an undisclosed location. He warned that they would continue such attacks in the future.
It was the third such attack in the region, and it has whipped up fear among local tribesmen. “Our social life has been disturbed. Markets close in the afternoon and no one ventures out of his home. We cannot attend funerals for fear of attacks from Afghan Taliban,” Zarin Zada, a resident of Banr village told The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2012.
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