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Men assist an injured border guard after he was brought to a hospital in Peshawar.—Reuters

LANDI KOTAL Twenty-two Khasadars were killed when a suicide bomber struck a security post near Torkham along the Afghan border on Thursday evening.

According to witnesses, the bomber blew himself up when the tribal policemen gathered at the checkpost and were about to break their fast.

The bodies and the injured were taken to Landi Kotal's Agency Headquarters Hospital in Khyber tribal region.

'The scene here is chaotic. We have called all medical staff to deal with the situation,' a doctor at the hospital told Dawn on telephone.

'So far we have received 22 bodies, but we can't say at the moment about the exact number of casualties. The situation is bad and we have asked for ambulances from other towns,' Dr Zar Alam Shinwari said.

Local people and transport workers said they had retrieved 13 bodies from the blast site. 'We collected body parts and put them into handcarts,' they added.

Torkham, about 55km north of Peshawar, is one of the main border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan and connects Khyber with Afghanistan's eastern Nangrahar province. It is the main supply route for Nato forces in Afghanistan.

Landi Kotal's political tehsildar Nasir Khan confirmed that 22 people had lost their lives, but warned that the death toll could rise. 'We are still pulling out bodies.'

(According to AFP, a senior administration official, Rehan Gul Khattak, said 'authorities have found head of the bomber at the site of the attack').

The witnesses said that personnel of the Khyber Rifles, a paramilitary force, and Khasadars had reached the place after 30 minutes and cordoned off the area to retrieve the bodies and collect evidence.

The suicide bombing came just two days after the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan announced a new successor to Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a drone missile attack early this month.

Later, on Friday, the Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was their first retaliation for their leaders death.

We claim responsibility for the blast, Azam Tariq, spokesman for Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), said in a telephone call from an unknown location.

This is our first response since the death of our chief Baitullah Mehsud, Tariq told AFP. We will continue similar attacks in the future also. He said the victims of the suicide attack were all those supporting the United States. Anybody supporting the US is our enemy.

Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a missile strike by a US drone aircraft on August 5. His death was confirmed by Taliban commanders on Tuesday.

Thursdays bombing came hours after a US drone attack killed eight people in the nortHwestern tribal area of South Waziristan.