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Death toll from Peshawar blast rises to 15

Policemen collect evidence at the site of a bomb explosion in Peshawar. - Reuters Photo

PESHAWAR: A suicide bomber blew himself up at a funeral near the northwestern city of Peshawar on Sunday, killing at least 15 people and wounding more than 30 others, police and hospital officials said.

The blast, apparently targeting an anti-Taliban politician, went off near a graveyard where people had just offered funeral prayers, senior police officer Kalam Khan said.

“It was a suicide attack, we have found the head and legs of the bomber,” he said.

Peshawar administration chief Mohammad Siraj said the death toll from the incident in the Badaber area on the outskirts of Peshawar had gone up to 15.

“The latest toll is 15 dead and 37 wounded,” he told reporters.

Doctor Rahim Jan, head of the local Lady Reading Hospital, confirmed the casualties.

“We received nine bodies from the blast site and six died later in the hospital,” Jan said, adding that many of the wounded were in a serious condition.

Peshawar police chief Imtiaz Altaf said about eight kilograms of explosives had been used in the attack.

Nobody claimed responsibility but militants have carried out several attacks in the area.

The blast went off after mourners had offered prayers for a local woman.

Police believe the deputy speaker of the provincial assembly, Khushdil Khan, who was attending the funeral, could have been the target.

Khushdil Khan is a member of the secular Awami National Party, which rules the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

He has formed an anti-Taliban militia in the area and is on the Pakistani Taliban's hit list, police officer Kalam Khan said.

“He was not hurt, he is safe,” the officer added.

Saddam Hussain, 21, described the carnage.

“We lifted the coffin and headed towards the graveyard after the prayers when a huge blast was heard,” he said.

“There were body parts and blood stains. People were crying for help.

“There was no doctor and no ambulance. People, who had come to attend the funeral, put the casualties in their cars and rushed to the hospital. I myself put one wounded man in a car heading to the hospital.”

In the hospital Zahir Shah, 40, wailed with grief near the body of his elder brother Raees Khan.

“Why did you murder my brother? He was so beautiful,” he said. “This morning we had our breakfast together. My mother will not survive if I show her his body.”

Politician Khushdil Khan blamed the Taliban for the attack.

“They are targeting innocent people, they are enemies of humanity,” he told AFP.

“We want peace in our area and we fight against all those who want to disrupt peace in our region.”

The suicide bombing came a day after security officials said Pakistani troops, backed by helicopter gunships, killed 39 militants during a search operation near the town of Bara in the lawless Khyber tribal district on the Afghan border.

Bara is considered a stronghold of local warlord Mangal Bagh, who is linked to Islamist militants.

Peshawar has a population of 2.5 million people and has long been on the frontline of violence blamed on an insurgency led by Taliban militants opposed to Islamabad's alliance with the United States.

Sunday's funeral bombing was the first since September 15 when a suicide attacker targeting anti-Taliban militia killed 46 people at a funeral in the northwestern district of Lower Dir.


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