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By Zahir Shah
LOWER DIR – A suicide bomber targeted funeral prayers in the remote Beero Village in Lower Dir District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, killing more than 30 and injuring at least 65, Lower Dir District Police Officer Salim Marwat told Central Asia Online.
The bomber hit the funeral of a villager named Bakhtzada.
Soon after the explosion, security forces imposed a curfew. The district’s hospitals declared a state of emergency. Medics rushed the injured to hospitals in Samarbagh and Timergara, sending the seriously injured to Mardan, Swat and Peshawar.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Swat leader Sirajuddin called the media and claimed responsibility for the attack. He said it was retaliation for government action against the TTP in Malakand and other areas.
He said that people forming lashkars against the militants and supporting the security forces are being targeted and will continue to be targeted.
The District Headquarters Hospital (DHH) in Timergara had admitted about 51 patients, Dr. Abdul Wakis, the hospital’s medical superintendent said. It had received six bodies, he added.
Eighteen bodies were at the Samarbagh Hospital, paramedic Aman Khan told Central Asia Online. However, he said the figure could be higher, since some villagers might have removed their dead from the hospital.
Boys who didn’t pray
Eyewitness Amir Khan told Central Asia Online he was standing in the second-to-last row when he saw three boys who were not offering the funeral prayer.
“I was suspicious of their presence and tried to call the security people, but suddenly there was a stampede as someone shouted there is a suicide bomber,” he added.
“I had seen the boy; he was a bulky one around 18 years of age, who attacked the funeral prayer,” he said. “I even tried to take out my pistol to stop him, but all of a sudden there was a blast and then I could not sense what had happened.”
“It was my maternal uncle Bakhtzada’s funeral,” one injured boy, Hussain, at the DHH in Timergara, told Central Asia Online. “I was in the last row when someone shouted, ‘There is a suicide bomber, run,’ and first a small explosion, then a huge blast occurred, and I was on the ground.”
“The last words I heard … were people screaming and shouting, but then I went blank,” he said.
Militants apparently struck the village, in the Mashwani tribe’s jurisdiction, because of its anti-Taliban stance and support for the government.
Bakhtzada was an ordinary villager, but the militants meant to target the entire tribe for its defiance, said a police officer, Farman.
Another motive was the possible participation in the funeral of Miskini Khrakia peace committee members, who have long fought the militants, officials said.
The Mashwani area in Samarbagh is the only region in Malakand Division that refused militants entry during the division’s entire period of active militancy.
Chorus of denunciations
KP’s top officials uniformly denounced the bombing.
KP Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti, while announcing Rs. 300,000 (US $3,400) compensation for those killed and Rs. 100,000 ($1,150) for the wounded, said, “This is un-Islamic and inhuman. The government will continue its fight till elimination of the terrorist network.”
“Barbaric,” said KP Governor Barrister Masood Kausar.
KP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain and Senior Minister Bashir Bilour condemned the act as well, saying the government and its supporters will continue fighting militants until they are defeated.
Javed Aziz Khan contributed to this report.