Pakistani Taleban faction claims responsibility for mosque blast

PESHAWAR (Pakistan) • A splinter group of the Pakistani Taleban, Tehreek-e-Taleban Pakistan Jamaat- ur-Ahrar (TTP-JA), has claimed responsibility for Friday's suicide bomb attack on a mosque in northwestern Pakistan that left at least 30 people dead.

The attack in the village of Payee Khan, a village in Mohmand Agency that is part of the lawless Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) bordering Afghanistan, also wounded dozens of people.

The group said it was a revenge attack, accusing tribesmen of launching an assault on its forces and of capturing militants and handing them over to the government.

"The suicide bomber was in a crowded mosque, he shouted, 'Allahu akbar' (God is greatest), and then there was a huge blast," Mr Naveed Akbar, the deputy administrator of Mohmand Agency, said.

Mr Akbar added that some fatalities appear to have been caused when part of the mosque caved in from the force of the blast.

"A portion of the mosque and verandah collapsed in the blast and fell on worshippers. We are still retrieving bodies and the injured from the rubble of the mosque," he said.

Local tribal elder Haji Subhanullah Mohmand said local tribesmen had gathered a volunteer force, killed one insurgent and captured another.

"It seems to have enraged the militants and they got their revenge by carrying out a suicide attack in a mosque today," Mr Mohmand said.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the bombing and said the "attacks by terrorists cannot shatter the government's resolve to eliminate terrorism from the country".

Pakistan's frontier regions, which are deeply conservative and hard to access due to rough terrain, have long been the sanctuary of fighters from Al-Qaeda, the Taleban and other militant groups.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 18, 2016, with the headline 'Pakistani Taleban faction claims responsibility for mosque blast'. Print Edition | Subscribe