BATKHEL, May 17: A powerful bomb blast ripped through a mosque during Friday prayers in a remote mountainous area in the semi-tribal Malakand region, killing at least 13 worshippers and injuring 30.
A second blast in a nearby mosque followed, but caused no casualties because people had left the mosque after the first explosion. The mosque was badly damaged.
Both the bombs were detonated by remote control.
These are the first incidents of bomb blasts since the successful elections were held in the region.
The incidents may pose a challenge to the new provincial government — likely to be headed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf which stands for talks with Taliban for peace in the province and the country.
There was mystery about the perpetrators because no militant organisation claimed responsibility till late night.
The two mosques in Baz Darra are barely hundred feet apart, according to Assistant Commissioner of Malakand Abdullah Mashal.
“Most of the casualties were caused by the first blast. The roof of the mosque collapsed and many of the wounded were pulled out from the debris,” Mr Mashal said on phone from Dargai. Fourteen people with critical injuries were taken to hospitals in different towns.
Army troops and Levies cordoned off the area to look for the perpetrators of the attack on the mosques.
Earlier in the morning, a low intensity bomb went off outside the house of a retired military officer but caused no damage.
The identity of the assailants or the motive behind the bombings could not be ascertained till late night.
The area was under the control of militants before 2009 when the army launched an operation and expelled them from the region and nearby Swat Valley.
“No militant activity has since been observed in the area. It has remained calm and elections were held there last week in a peaceful atmosphere. So, we have no idea who carried out the twin attacks,” Mr Mashal said.
“When we heard the explosion, we dashed to the mosque and saw injured people crying for help,” a local man said.
“I was offering prayers when the explosion took place. What happened afterwards and how I ended up here in hospital, I don’t remember,” said an injured young man in a hospital in Batkhela.
ARMY CONVOY ATTACKED: Late on Thursday night an army convoy was ambushed near Peshawar’s southern fringe of Mattani, killing five soldiers and wounding as many.
The soldiers from the army’s engineering unit were going to Peshawar from Bannu when they were fired upon, a security official said.
“This is how militants reciprocate offers of talks,” he said in a bitter tone.