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Soldiers walk through the rubble of a damaged building at the site of suicide bombing in Ghalanai. A pair of suicide bombers disguised as policemen killed many people in an attack targeting a tribal meeting called to discuss the formation of an anti-Taliban militia, in Pakistani tribal area of Mohmand. –AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad

GHALANAI: The death toll from twin suicide bombings in the Mohmand tribal district bordering Afghanistan has risen to 43, an official said Tuesday.

“Three more people died in Peshawar hospital. The death toll has now reached 43,” Miraj Khan, a senior administrative official in the town of Ghalanai, told AFP.

Two suicide bombers dressed in police uniform attacked a meeting of anti-Taliban militiamen and pro-government elders in Ghalanai, about 175 kilometres northwest of Islamabad.

Most of the victims have been identified and their bodies handed over to relatives, but eight badly mutilated bodies are still in Ghalani hospital, Khan said.

“They are beyond recognition,” he said.

Among the dead are government officials and two television journalists – Pervez Khan and Abdul Wahab. Political tesildar Zabit Khan is among the injured

More than 100 people were believed to have been in a compound where government officials, allied tribal elders and members of the local anti-Taliban militia were meeting when the bombers struck.

A purported spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, threatening death to anyone who forms militias against the extremists.

An earlier report said the bombers wanted to target an anti-Taliban and pro-government peace committee from Safi region in Mohmand, but Mr Amjad denied this. He said that only one tribal elder from the area had been killed in the attack.

Government officials said there were plans to launch an operation in Mohmand, but it was postponed because of security arrangements for Muharram.

Pakistan has long armed and supported tribesmen in a strategy designed to protect local communities from Taliban encroachment across the northwest.

Around 4,000 people have died in suicide and bomb attacks across Pakistan since government forces raided an extremist mosque in Islamabad in 2007. The attacks have been blamed on networks linked to the Taliban and al Qaeda.

AFP adds: “Our two suicide bombers targeted people who were working against the Taliban,” Omar Khalid, the purported chief of TTP in Mohmand, told AFP by telephone from an unknown location.

“Those who will work against us and form lashkars (tribal army) or peace committees will be targeted. Our war is to enforce Sharia and anyone who hinders our way or sides with America will meet the same fate,” he warned.

Local official Maqsood Amin said that the building was badly damaged.

It was the second suicide attack in five months targeting Mohmand tribal elders allied to the government. On July 9, a suicide car bomb attack killed 105 people in the town of Yakaghund, also in the region.