Pakistanis comb rubble for victims
Death toll from attacks rises to 102
YAKAGHUND, Pakistan — As Adnan Khan sifted through the rubble in this northwest Pakistani village yesterday, his grief mingled with a sense of disbelief. Of the 102 people killed by a pair of suicide bombers here the day before, 10 were his relatives. Aunts, uncles, cousins — all perished in the deadliest attack in Pakistan this year.
“People came here yesterday to receive biscuits and edible oil,’’ the college student said. “I don’t know why terrorists killed them.’’
Yakaghund village lies in Mohmand, one of several regions in Pakistan’s tribal belt where Al Qaeda and Taliban militants are believed to be hiding. The Friday strike showed that Islamist extremists remain a deadly force along this area bordering Afghanistan, despite pressure from army offensives or drone-fired US missiles.
The death toll in the bombings rose to 102 yesterday as the search for victims continued, officials said. It was the third attack this year to kill more than 90 people, and the worst in the country since a car bombing killed 112 people at a crowded market in the main northwest city of Peshawar in October.
Although the Pakistani Taliban said anti-militant tribal elders were the target, it was dozens of ordinary men and women who bore the brunt of the strike. Many had lined up nearby to pick up donated food and goods such as farm equipment when the blasts occurred.
The bombs’ target appeared to be the office of Rasool Khan, a deputy Mohmand administrator, that tribal elders were visiting. Local journalists said Pakistani Taliban spokesman Akramullah Mohmand had called them late Friday and claimed responsibility.
None of those elders was hurt, officials said. Some are believed to have been involved in citizens’ militias that have risen against the insurgents.
The Friday attack also wounded 168 people in Yakaghund, a village of 4,000 that lies on the edge of Mohmand and the Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa Province. About 70 to 80 shops were damaged or destroyed, while damage to a prison building allowed 28 inmates — ordinary criminals, not militants — to flee, Rasool Khan said.
Some houses nearby, including those belonging to Adnan Khan’s relatives, also were leveled.
People kept up the search yesterday through the piles of brick and rubble left behind. As of midday, at least 15 people were still believed to be trapped beneath, said Ibrahim Khan, a security official who gave the latest casualty tolls.
Sher Afzal, 22, hoped his uncle and cousin would be found. “My uncle came here to collect his national identity card [from a government office], and he is still missing with his son,’’ Afzal said. “We have checked all the hospitals, but we could not trace them.’’
The United States has pushed Islamabad to clamp down on militants who threaten Western troops across the border in Afghanistan and to destabilize nuclear-armed Pakistan itself. The Pakistani Army has carried out operations in Mohmand, but it has been unable to extirpate Islamist militants hiding there. Its efforts to rely on citizen militias to take on the militants have had limited success in Mohmand.
Yesterday, many in Yakaghund were too scared to even mention the word “Taliban,’’ but several said it was the US presence in Afghanistan that was the real cause of the violence in Pakistan. They also blamed the Pakistani government for not caring about the effects of the US war across the border on Pakistani citizens.
“Mohmand was a peaceful area, but we have lost this peace since the American attacks in Afghanistan,’’ said Haji Mohammad Amin, 65, a farmer.
“The government policies are responsible for this. They don’t provide security for the common people,’’ said Adnan Khan.