Nasir Mohmand, Nader Buneri and Said Alam Khan
MOHMAND AGENCY/PESHAWAR As many as 51 persons were killed and 120 others including officials of the agency administration got injured as a result of twin suicide blasts in front of the office of Political Agent in Ghallani, headquarters of Mohmand Agency, on Monday.
Sources said that two suicide bombers came near the office of Political Agent Amjad Ali Khan on motorbikes. The first blew himself up inside the office, while the second one set off explosives when guards caught him in front of the office.
The blast badly damaged the agency administration compartments and its adjacent buildings.
It is stated that more that one hundred people including tribal elders and volunteers of peace committees were present on the occasion for holding talks with top officers of the Agency.
Soon after the blast heavy contingent of security forces and personnel of Khasadar Force rushed towards the site and cordoned off the area.
The injured were rushed towards Agency Headquarter Hospital and Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar.
The deceased included Pervez Khan Mohmand, Abdul Wahab, a journalist and uncle of President Mohmand Agency Press Club Habib-ur-Rahman, Malik Haji Kachkol, Haleem Shah, Siar Gul, Nader Khan Namos, Saleem Khan, Mujeeb Khan, Zia Wali Shah, Kabal Khan, Anwar Shah, a clerk, Mian Abdul Ghaffar, Mian Abdul Rashid, Political Muharrer Ghulam Syed Khasadar, Alam Zeb, Mian Sawab Gul, Zahid Khan, Khasadar, Shafiullah and Ismail Sagi.
The injured included journalist Mohib Ali, Sobedar Major Jan Mohammad, assistant Fazal Wahid, Habib Gul, Mohammad Amin, Noorullah, driver Yaseen, Abdul Akbar, Khan Naseeb, Abdul Ali and Ali Manshah.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed the responsibility for the attack and termed it a reaction to the military operation in Teshil Safi area of Mohmand Agency.
Talking to journalists, Political Agent Amjad Ali Khan said that one of the suicide bombers blew himself up while another was caught by the security forces, who later detonated his explosive-laden jacket. He said that a meeting among the local administration, tribal elders and members of the peace committee was under way at the time of blast.
Meanwhile briefing the journalist at Lady Reading Hospital, Provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain condemned the suicide blasts and termed them inhuman acts of terrorism. He said that the Government was taking all possible measures to curb the menace of terrorism but peace in Pakistan was linked to peace in Afghanistan.
He said that Islamabad, Washington and Kabul would have to share intelligence information to take a result-oriented action against the terrorists. Mistrust will certainly benefit the terrorists, thus, Pakistan, US and Afghanistan will have to share intelligence to wipe out the militants, he added.
He predicted that prevailing militancy might continue for more than a decade if effective steps and timely actions were not taken against the terrorists. We will have to show unity among our ranks, he added.
About the operation against militants, he informed that the forces had conducted successful operation against terrorists in Mohmand Agency. He, however, said that the comprehensive result-oriented actions were a must to end the seeds of militancy sowed almost 30 years back.
We believe that the mistrust among these three countries will benefit the terrorists. So, they must share intelligence information to wipe out militants, he remarked. Dismantling terrorists network is the duty of the Government and the Government is doing its job efficiently, he added.
The militants are targeting mosques, schools, children, women and jirgas, which is against the Pakhtun traditions, saying at present the fight was between peace lovers and war lovers. We will have to be with peace lovers to defeat the enemies of peace at all costs, he concluded.
Agencies add: Suspected Taliban suicide bombers killed at least 40 people at the office compound of a top government official in northwest Pakistan on Monday, demonstrating the ability of militants to strike high-profile targets in defiance of army offensives.
There were two bombers. They were on foot. The first blew himself up inside the office of one of my deputies while the second one set off explosives when guards caught him, said Amjad Ali Khan, the top government official in Mohmand region, who appeared to be the target of the attack. They were dressed in paramilitary uniforms, he said.
Pakistans army has said several offensives it has launched since last year have weakened al Qaeda-linked Pakistani Taliban militants.
But they often melt away during assaults on their strongholds to set up operations elsewhere or wait patiently to return.
Whenever you put pressure on them, they fight back and this phenomenon will not be over in days. They will strike whenever they will get a chance, said Mehmood Shah, former chief of security in Pakistans tribal regions, home to some of the worlds most dangerous militant groups.
Pakistans Taliban militants have staged suicide bombings in a bid to destabilise the US-backed government, which faces an array of problems from a fragile economy to growing discontent over an energy crisis. Pakistan Taliban spokesman Omar Khalid said the group carried out the Mohmand attack, saying it was in response to what he said was the Pakistani governments recent decision to hand over Arab militants to the United States.
When the bombers struck, Khan was holding talks with tribesmen on the need to strengthen militias helping the government fight militancy, said Mohammad Ghaffar, one of his deputies.
I entered the compound. I heard a blast. I fell down, got up and then another explosion happened, said witness Ishtiaq Ahmed, from his hospital bed in the city of Peshawar.
People were shouting and some paramilitary soldiers fired in the air. I saw charred bodies.
Survivor Sakhi Jan, a 50-year-old member of the peace committee with injuries to his hand, said double blasts rocked everything around. Tribesmen and elders had been sitting in small groups on the lawn outside the office of the political agent, said Shuja Ahmed, another committee member. Fifty-one people were killed and 120 wounded, with 25 in a serious condition, said an official. One of the reasons the attacks were so deadly was because the bombers had filled their suicide jackets with bullets, said Amjad Ali Khan, the top political official in Mohmand. These bullets killed everyone who was hit, said Khan.
The bombers were wearing tribal police uniform. One of them blew himself up at the main gate and the second in the office, Ali said.
Local official Maqsood Amin told AFP that the building was badly damaged. At least two rooms and a veranda were demolished, he said. Doctor Jahangir Khan at the local hospital in Ghalalnai said 31 corpses had been brought in after the attacks and confirmed that 60 were wounded.
Mohmand official Shamsul Islam dismissed suggestions that security had been too lax to stop the suicide bombers, who travelled by motorbike.
Routine security arrangements were in place. It is difficult to stop suicide bombers, they can go anywhere, he told a private TV channel.
The purported chief of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Mohmand claimed responsibility for the attack. Our two suicide bombers targeted people who were working against the Taliban, Omar Khalid told AFP by telephone from an unknown location.
Those who will work against us and make 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, Khalid said.
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.
Around 4,000 people have been killed in suicide and bomb attacks across the country since government forces raided Lal Masjid in Islamabad in 2007. The attacks have been blamed on Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked networks.
Aside from its struggle against home-grown militants, Pakistan faces US pressure to eliminate Afghan Taliban militants who cross its border to attack Western forces in Afghanistan.
Little government control over the ethnic Pashtun northwest tribal region make it an ideal spot for militant groups to form alliances, run training grounds and plot attacks.
Their calls for holy war can appeal to young men who have yet to see the state deliver schools and jobs.
The US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter said defeating militancy requires more than security crackdowns.
Its a question of civil institutions, a question of economic growth, a question of making all the elements of society stronger, he told a group of journalists in Pakistans commercial capital Karachi, where officials say militants enjoy safe havens and benefit from funding networks. A suicide car bombing on November 11, claimed by the Pakistan Taliban, brought the fight to the doorstep of elite counter terrorism police in Karachi. The blast demolished the headquarters of an investigation department, where militants were interrogated. At least 18 people were killed.
The challenge in the northwest was highlighted by Munters predecessor Anne Patterson in a February 21, 2009 diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks. She predicted it would take 10-15 years to defeat a witches brew of militants there.