BAJAUR - As many as 43 persons including three personnel of Bajaur Levy were killed and over 100 others got injured when a burqa-clad woman suicide bomber blew herself up outside the Civil Colony in Khar, the headquarters of Bajaur Agency here on Saturday.
The bombing appeared to be the first suicide attack staged by a woman in Pakistan.
According to witnesses and political administration of the Agency, the bomber, before blowing herself up, also hurled two hand-grenades at one of the Bajaur Levy Force checking points outside the Civil Colony compound where the law enforcement agencies personnel were busy frisking people who were queued up to get ration from the World Food Programme (WFP) distribution point inside the compound.
They said that the woman attacker, 22, was stopped by the Levies Force personnel on the spot but she quickly detonated her suicide jacket. As a result 43 persons, mostly those gathered at the site to get WFP ration, and left about 100 others injured.
Soon after the blast, the officials of the Political Administration of Bajaur Agency, Bajaur Levy Force, and personnel of security forces rushed to the spot and after cordoning off the area started rescue activities.
Some of the injured were airlifted to the Lady Reading Hospital-Peshawar by an Army copter.
The dead included Sher Wali Khan, Fazal Hayyan, Sher Alam, Fazal Amin, Jan Bahadar, Rahmat Gul, Imran, Shazada Khan, Abdur Rahim, Wahab Gul, Muhammad Noor, Muhammad Ghani, Fazal Ahmad, Sultanzeb, Saaz Gul, Muhammad Amin, Javid Iqbal, Muhammad Rauf, Khan Wada, Gul Haleem, Zameen Khan, Abdur Raziq, Muhammad Zeer, Muhammad Amin Khan, Ummar Zaman, Syed Hussain, Sher Zaman, Alam Sher Khan, Rahmat Wali, Khaista, Multan, Adam Khan, Muhamad Ilyas, Abdul Haleem, Shashair Khan, Hawaldar Bacha Rahman, Hawaldar Sanobar and Sepahi Ismail, while identification of the other deceased are yet to be ascertained.
The injured included Bakht Munir, Rahmatullah, Khan Wali Sai, Ihsan, Mehar Bacha, Noor Islam, Akbar Zada, Sadam, Toor Bacha, Gul Zada, Niaz Muhammad, Syed Muhammad, Bahadar Khan, Khaista Rahman, Sher Ali, Amanullah, Khan Wali Syed, Darwesh, Gul Hakeem, Muhammad Daud, Sulaiman, Syed Mustafa, Khanzeb, Yousaf Khan, Muhammad Azeem, Gula Jan, Ghafar Khan, Shakoor, Fazal Amin, Fatihur Rahman, Syed Hassan, Ali Rahman, Taj Muhammad, Hazrat Muhammad, Mukhtiar, Bakht Munir, Spin Gul, Arsala Khan, Sahib Jan, Gohar, Shah Nasim Khan, Syed Noor, Javid, Janzeb, Said Wali Khan, Yousaf Shah, Azam, Musafar Khan, Gul Zada, Syed Muhhamad, Dost Muhammad, Salahud Din and Ismail.
The officials said that it was due to the strict security measures that the suicide bomber was not able to reach the WFP ration distribution point, otherwise it could have caused cause much more human casualties as over 600 people were present there at that time.
Political Agent Bajaur Agency Zakir Hussain Afridi, Commandant Bajaur Scouts Colonel Nawaz Khan and other highups visited the Bajaur Agency Headquarters Hospital and inquired after the condition of the injured.
After the suicide blast, the security forces imposed curfew in the Khar city and certain parts of the region and busted several suspected persons during the search operation.
Meanwhile, after the blast, all the distribution points were shut in the Bajaur Agency.
The officials said that all the people working at these points have been shifted to safer places.
The relevant officials said that it is too early to say that when these distribution points would be reopened.
Agencies add: The bomber struck in Bajuars main city of Khar. It also came a day after some 150 militants killed 11 soldiers in a coordinated assault in the adjoining Mohmand Agency.
The female bomber first lobbed two hand grenades into the crowd waiting at a checkpoint outside the food aid distribution centre, local police official Fazal-e-Rabbi Khan said.
Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack through its spokesman, Azam Tariq, saying it was retaliation for 'Salarzais activities against the Taliban.
The victims were from various parts of the Bajaur region, who gather daily at the centre to collect food tokens distributed by the World Food Programme and other agencies to violence-affected people.
Tariq Khan and another local official, Sohail Khan, said an examination of the human remains has confirmed the bomber was a woman.
Male suicide bombers often don the burqa as a disguise. In 2007, officials initially claimed Pakistans first female suicide bomber had killed 14 people in Bannu but the attacker was later identified as a man.
Akbar Jan, 45, who sustained leg wounds in the bombing, said from his hospital bed that people were lining up for the ration coupons when something exploded with a big bang. We thought someone had fired a rocket, he told reporters. He said within seconds he saw the ground strewn with the wounded. I realised a little later that I myself have suffered wounds, he said. Everybody was crying. It was blood and human flesh everywhere.
Officials said the death toll could rise as some of the wounded were in critical condition. Several women and children were among casualties, officials said.
A WFP spokesman said the attack took place where people were being screened at a security checkpoint near their centre.
Meanwhile, army helicopter gunships and artillery have killed 40 more militants in the second day of large-scale fighting in Mohmand Agency.
Top government official in Mohmand, Amjad Ali Khan, said the gunships backed by artillery pounded militants hideouts on Saturday, killing 40 of them.
The fighting started Friday, when some 150 militants attacked five security posts in Mohmand in an unusually large and coordinated attack, sparking an hours-long battle that killed 11 soldiers and 24 extremists.