A suicide bomber on Monday struck a political gathering of NWFP’s ruling Awami National Party to celebrate the renaming of the Pushtun dominated province as Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa, killing 25 people and leaving 100 others wounded in Timergara in lower Dir.
The bomber detonated his lethal explosives at an open air gathering in the main town of insurgency-infested lower Dir. Twenty-five people were killed and close to 100 others were injured, hospital and police officials were quoted as saying by TV news channels. Officials fear that the death toll could rise.
Deputy Inspector General of Police (Malakand division) Qazi Jamilur Rahman and senior ANP leader Zahid Khan confirmed it was a suicide attack. Sultan Zeb, a middle rung ANP leader, was among the dead. Party leader Zahid Khan’s brother was among the injured. Several witnesses said they had seen police firing at the suicide bomber before he detonated his explosives.
TV news channels beamed footage of bloodstained bodies lying in the lawn outside the rest house as people carried the injured away from the site. Security forces cordoned off the area and an emergency was declared in nearby hospitals. Hospital officials said theyfeared the death toll could rise. They issued an appeal for people to donate blood.
A large number of people had gathered for the celebrations organised by the ANP, which leads the rulingcoalition in the NWFP. Several government offices are located near the rest house where the blast occurred. The Maidan area near Timergara was a key stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban till the army launched a major offensive last year to evict militants from Buner, Dir and Swat regions of the NWFP.
The Timergara area was also a key base for Sufi Muhammad, the chief of the banned Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah Muhammadi. DIG Rahman said security forces had effectively controlled the activities of militants in the region and they could no longer carry out attack in groups. “However, some elements are still present in the area and they are trying to spread terror,” he said.