Onlookers stand over the site of a bomb blast outside a mosque in Hangu on February 1, 2013. —AFP Photo

PESHAWAR: A suicide bomber blew himself up outside two neighbouring mosques in the town of Hangu in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, killing at least 27 people and wounding over 40 others, officials said.

According to police, the bomber detonated his explosives as worshippers poured out after Friday (Jummah) prayers in the crowded Pat Bazaar area.

“Most of the dead were coming out of a mosque in the marketplace after Friday prayers when the bomb went off,” a senior police officer said.

District Police officer (DPO) Dr Muhammed Saeed said the bomber blew himself up near one of the mosques’ exits leading to a crowded market.

The attack occurred in a tight lane housing two mosques – Masjid Faizullah, frequented by members of the Shia sect, and the other, Masjid Purdil, by members of the Sunni sect. Some officials said the anti-Taliban Sunni Supreme Council often holds its meetings in the Purdil mosque, which was the possible target.

It was unclear if the blast targeted members of a particular sect as the dead included both Sunnis and Shias.

However, DPO Saeed said that the suicide attack “targeted Shias but Sunni Muslims also fell victim since their mosque and some shops were also very close to the site,” said Saeed.

“We have found the head of the bomber, who came there on a motorbike,” he added.

Dr Nawab Hussain, a senior official at the District Headquarters Hospital, said more than 40 people had been brought to the hospital out of which 16, who were stated to be in serious condition, were shifted to hospitals in Kohat.

Hussain also confirmed that 22 bodies had been brought to the hospital.

Hangu, part of Pakistan’s border region with Afghanistan, has been racked by sectarian violence. It is just a few km from Parachinar, which has a significant Shia population.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.

With additional input from Zahir Shah Sherazi in Peshawar.