Pakistan suicide bomb attack kills dozens

Some of the injured people were taken to Peshawar

A suicide bomb attack in north-west Pakistan has left at least 40 people dead, local officials have said.

The attack took place at a government compound in the Mohmand Agency as officials met anti-Taliban allies.

Dozens of people have also been hurt in the attack, local media say.

The area borders Afghanistan and is a stronghold of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The military has launched offensives there but insurgent attacks continue on a regular basis.

A Taliban spokesman said the group was behind the latest attack.

It was carried out by two suicide bombers disguised in police uniforms and targeted a local administration compound in Ghalanai, the main town in Mohmand, about 175km (110 miles) north-west of the capital Islamabad.

Start Quote

There were dozens on the ground like me, bleeding and crying”

End Quote Qalandar Khan Eyewitness

More than 100 people were said to be in the compound, where talks were taking place between government officials, tribal elders and local anti-Taliban groups.

One official, Mohammad Khalid Khan, told Associated Press that tribal elders and police officials were among the dead.

At least two journalists were also killed.

One eyewitness, Qalandar Khan, told AP: "There was a deafening sound and it caused a cloud of dust and smoke. There were dozens on the ground like me, bleeding and crying. I saw body parts scattered in the compound."

Bullets

About 25 seriously injured people have been taken to Peshawar for hospital treatment.

One of the possible targets of the attack, Mohmand's top political official, Amjad Ali Khan, was not hurt.

A local administration official told the BBC a man on a motorbike had driven up to a sitting area at the meeting and detonated his explosives. Seconds later another bomber, also on a motorbike, exploded his device at the gate of the compound.

Pakistan north-west map

Amjad Ali Khan said the bombers had also packed their suicide vests with bullets, which had increased the death toll.

Thousands of people have been killed in al-Qaeda and Taliban attacks across Pakistan since government forces raided an extremist mosque in Islamabad in 2007.

In July, a double suicide bombing in the village of Yakaghund in Mohmand, which also targeted tribal elders, killed more than 100 people.

The BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Pakistan says the army has carried out limited operations in Mohmand but has focused more thoroughly on the neighbouring Bajaur tribal region.

He says the Taliban in Mohmand are led by Umar Khalid, a little known but powerful commander whose fighters are more active in Afghanistan than Pakistan.

Umar Khalid is said to provide sanctuary to top al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders as they flee operations by the army. These are said to include Hakimullah Mehsud and Ayman al-Zawahiri, our correspondent says.

Pakistan's military says its offensives have disrupted militants in the north-west but analysts say the insurgents often escape.

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