KHAR: A woman suicide bomber blew herself up at a distribution centre of the World Food Programme, killing 45 people who had queued for aid and wounding 80 others. The dead included six Levies personnel. A number of Levies personnel were among the injured.
According to officials, most of the victims belonged to the Salarzai tribe, which had raised a lashkar against militants in Bajaur.
The Bajaur bombing came just one day after a concerted strike by 150 Taliban on five checkpoints in Mohmand Agency that left 11 paramilitary soldiers and 24 of the attackers dead.
Security forces called in Cobra helicopters to assist the ground operation.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Bajaur suicide attack. Azam Tariq, a spokesman for Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, told Dawn by phone from an unspecified place that they would carry out more attacks in the near future.
Without mentioning whether the blast was carried out by a woman, he said the organisation had a large number of women suicide bombers who would be used in attacks.
Officials and witnesses said the burqa-clad woman lobbed two grenades after she was stopped at a checkpoint set up for screening people proceeding to the WFP centre. Before security personnel could regroup, she detonated a kit packed with explosives.
It was the first suicide bombing involving a woman in the agency. However, there was disagreement on the identity of the bomber.
Mohammad Sattar, a student who received multiple injuries, said he was near the checkpoint when the explosion took place.
“A person wearing traditional shuttlecock burqa screamed before the explosion,” Sattar, who had come to Khar for getting national identity card, told Dawn at the LRH. “I heard a woman cry,” he added.
Other injured in the hospital corroborated Mr Sattar’s version and insisted that the shriek was that of a woman, and not of a man disguised as burqa-clad woman.
An official, however, said only DNA test would prove whether the attacker was a woman or a man, but he agreed with most of the eyewitness accounts that the bomber was a woman.
The explosion took place when a large number of people were approaching the World Food Program distribution centre inside the Civil Colony housing offices of several government departments.
The UN agency set up the centre to distribute food items among 30,000 families displaced by a military operation against militants in Bajaur in 2008.
Amjad Jamal, a spokesman for the WFP, said the agency had suspended the relief operation after the blast. The agency is running four distribution centres in Bajaur through its implementing partners.
The injured were taken to hospitals in Bajaur and in Timergara, the district headquarters of Lower Dir. The officials said that 33 critically wounded people had been shifted in military helicopters to the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar. Two of them died before reaching the hospital.
The witnesses said that about 400 people, three women among them, had lined up to proceed towards the distribution centre in the colony, about 500 metres away from the checkpoint.