Death toll in Pakistan mosque suicide bombing rises to 36, including 8 children

Pakistani mourners gather for the funeral prayers of the victims of a suicide bombing in Bajaur Agency near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, on Sept 17, 2016.
Pakistani mourners gather for the funeral prayers of the victims of a suicide bombing in Bajaur Agency near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, on Sept 17, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

PESHAWAR (AFP) - The death toll from a Taleban suicide bomb attack on a mosque in north-west tribal Pakistan has risen to 36, including eight children, officials said on Sunday (Sept 18).

The attack on Friday targeted a mosque in the Mohmand tribal district bordering Afghanistan where the army has been fighting against Taleban militants.

"We have now compiled a list of victims of the blast which includes 36 dead and 27 injured. At least eight children below the age of 10 years are among the dead," Mr Naveed Akbar, deputy chief of the Mohmand tribal district administration, told AFP. "Many children were hit in the blast because they were praying in the last rows in the mosque where the bomber struck."

The bomber came in as Friday prayers were in progress and blew himself up in the main hall. A curfew has been imposed in the area since the bombing.

Taleban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was carried out to avenge the deaths of 13 of its members and arrests of others by a local vigilante force in 2009.

Since 2007 the government has encouraged vigilante forces comprising tribesmen - locally known as peace committees - to defend their villages against the Taleban.

Pakistan's deadliest-ever attack occurred in Peshawar in December 2014, when Taleban militants stormed a school killing more than 150 people, mostly children.

The army launched an operation in June 2014 in a bid to wipe out militant bases in the northwestern tribal areas and so bring an end to the bloody insurgency that has cost thousands of civilian lives since 2004.

Last year, the country recorded its lowest number of killings since 2007, when the Pakistani Taleban was formed.