Dozens dead as blast hits NW Pakistan

A suicide attack outside the office of a senior government official in Pakistan's northwest has killed up to dozens of people.

Dozens dead as blast hits NW Pakistan

A suicide bomber on a motorbike killed at least 56 people, in an attack in a Pashtun region on the Afghan border on Friday, officials said.

The bomber blew himself up as hundreds of people gathered around the office of a senior government official in Pakistan's northwestern Mohmand region, where security forces have stepped up attacks on Taliban fighters in recent weeks.

But, there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

"The death toll has risen to 56. It could be more as people are still pulling out people trapped in the rubble of fallen shops," Rasool Khan, the region's assistant political agent, told Reuters. The attack took place outside his office.

Hospital officials said nearly 80 people were wounded, while government officials put the number at about 50.

Among the wounded were several people displaced by fighting between security forces and militants, who were collecting relief goods near the blast site.

Residents said five children, aged between 5 and 10, and several women were among dead.

"I was standing about 200 yards (metres) away from the office when I heard the blast. I don't know how it happened but I could see several bodies lying on the ground after the explosion and people running in all directions," said Riaz Hussain, a witness.

Television footage showed victims being pulled out of the debris. The blast also damaged several cars and about 30 shops, witnesses said.

A security official at the scene said the blast also damaged a nearby prison wall and several inmates had escaped.

"US-forced operations"

Pakistan launched two major offensives in the northwest last year against Taliban fighters in US-forced operations.

Taliban fighters were pushed out of the Swat valley, northwest of Islamabad, and in October the army began an offensive in the South Waziristan bastion on the Afghan border.

The offensive was extended to Orakzai in March as many of the fighters who fled the South Waziristan operation took refuge there and in Mohmand. Hundreds of fighters have since been killed in air strikes in the two regions.

Jet fighters killed about a dozen fighters in attacks in Orakzai on Friday, security officials said.

There was no independent verification of the casualties as fighters often dispute and reject official figures.

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 09 Temmuz 2010, 15:00

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