The attack in a crowd of a people watching a volleyball tournament was the deadliest in more than two months
A suicide bomber detonated his explosives-packed vehicle in a crowd of people watching a volleyball tournament Friday in northwest Pakistan, killing 75 people in the deadliest attack in the country in more than two months.
The attack in Lakki Marwat city appeared to be retaliation against residents who formed militias to drive militants out of the area, police said.
The blast underscores the difficulty Pakistan has had in stopping militants whose reach extends far beyond Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt and who appear increasingly willing to strike civilians as well as security forces.
The attack was not far from South Waziristan, where the army is waging an offensive against the Pakistani Taliban. That operation has provoked apparent reprisal attacks that have killed more than 500 people since October.
No group claimed responsibility for Friday’s blast, but that is not uncommon when large numbers of civilians are killed.
“The locality has been a hub of militants. Locals set up a militia and expelled the militants from this area. This attack seems to be reaction to their expulsion,” local police chief Ayub Khan told reporters.
Khan said an anti-Taliban meeting of local tribal elders in a mosque close to the field where the tournament was being held was the real target of the attack, but the driver failed to reach it.
The bomber set off some 550 pounds (250 kilograms) of high-intensity explosives loaded in the car at the field, which lies in a congested neighborhood, Khan said.
He said 75 people were confirmed dead. Another 60 wounded were receiving treatment, with 13 of them in critical condition.
Police official Tajammal Shah said eight children, six paramilitary troops and two police were among the dead.
Omar Gull, 35, a paramilitary soldier who was wounded, told an AP photographer at a nearby hospital that the attacker drove the vehicle recklessly into the crowd.
“People were just trying to understand what’s happening when the bomb went off,” he said. “It was then chaos. It was smoke, dust and cries.”
Another police official, Habib Khan, said some 300 people were on the field when the incident took place.
“We had security there. We had it for the meeting, and for the tournament,” Ayub Khan told The Associated Press by phone.
Regional Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain reiterated the government’s resolve to target militants wherever they may be, saying “we need to be more offensive to fight them.”
Also Friday, a suspected U.S. missile struck a car carrying alleged militants in North Waziristan tribal region, killing three men, two intelligence officials said. It was the second such strike in less than a day.
The strikes are part of the U.S. campaign to eliminate high-value militant targets that use Pakistan as a safe haven to plan attacks in neighboring Afghanistan and on the West.
Friday’s strike happened near Mir Ali, a major town in the region, two intelligence officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record. Shortly afterward, Taliban fighters arrived at the scene of the attack in the village of Ghundi and moved the bodies to an undisclosed location, the officials said.
Thursday’s missile strike was also near Mir Ali, hitting a house and killing three people.
U.S. officials rarely discuss the strikes, and Pakistan publicly condemns them, though it is widely believed to aid them secretly.
Karachi, the country’s largest city, came to a virtual standstill Friday after religious and political leaders called for a general strike to protest a militant bombing that killed 44 people and subsequent riots.
The city’s major markets, stores and business centers were closed, along with financial institutions that had already planned to shut for New Year’s Day. Public transportation was halted and gas stations were closed.
Monday’s bombing occurred in the midst of a procession of minority Shiite Muslims during the Islamic holy month of Muharram. Afterward, angry protesters went on a rampage, setting fires to about 2,000 stores that took three days to completely put out.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik, on a visit to Karachi, said investigators were still determining if the attack was a suicide bombing.
He also questioned the claim of a purported Taliban spokesman, Asmatullah Shaheen, that the militant group was behind the attack. Local news reports on Friday quoted a more prominent Taliban spokesman, Azam Tariq, as denying that the Pakistani Taliban’s central leadership had approved the attack, though he did not rule out the possibility that Shaheen’s group had carried it out without approval.
Elsewhere in the northwest, a roadside bomb exploded near a car in the Bajur tribal region, killing an anti-Taliban tribal elder and five of his family members, said Nasib Shah, a local government official.
Bajur was the focus of a 2008-09 army offensive but still suffers some militant violence. Tribal leaders who support the government against the Taliban are frequent targets of attacks.
Shahzad reported from Islamabad. Associated Press Writers Habib Khan in Khar, Rasool Dawar in Mir Ali and Ashraf Khan in Karachi contributed to this report.
More Related Stories
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- UK Military: London attack victim was a "model soldier"
- Billionaire hedge funder: Babies, breast-feeding "kill" focus, keep women from succeeding
- "Bookless library" set to open in Texas
- 2 more arrested in London attacks
- Glenn Beck: CNN interview with atheist tornado survivor was a setup!
- Incoming BBC news director on journalism gender gap: "We can do better"
- Illegal construction, shoddy materials at fault in Bangladesh factory disaster
- Ahead of Obama's speech, U.S. acknowledges four American drone killings
- Must-see morning clip: Bill O'Reilly visits "The Daily Show"
- Lawsuit alleges anti-gay hiring practices at ExxonMobil
- Boy Scouts poised to vote, still greatly divided on gay youth
- House supporters of KXL received $56m from fossil fuel industry
- 80-year-old becomes oldest to climb Mount Everest
- Before FBI shooting man implicated self, Tsarnaev in triple murder
- Paul McCartney backs Pussy Riot
- UK emergency committee convenes after attack
- Brave scout leader tried to reason with London attackers
- If Alex Pareene were a cable news executive...
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11