A suicide bomber killed 22 people and wounded at least 40 in an attack outside of two mosques in the district of Hangu in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa today. From Dawn:
According to police, the bomber detonated his explosives as worshippers poured out after Friday (Jummah) prayers in the crowded Pat Bazaar area.
“Most of the dead were coming out of a mosque in the marketplace after Friday prayers when the bomb went off,” a senior police officer said.
District Police officer (DPO) Dr Muhammed Saeed said the bomber blew himself up near one of the mosques’ exits leading to a crowded market.
The attack occurred in a tight lane housing two mosques – Masjid Faizullah, frequented by members of the Shia sect, and the other, Masjid Purdil, by members of the Sunni sect. Some officials said the anti-Taliban Sunni Supreme Council often holds its meetings in the Purdil mosque, which was the possible target.
It was unclear if the blast targeted members of a particular sect as the dead included both Sunnis and Shias.
However, DPO Saeed said that the suicide attack “targeted Shias but Sunni Muslims also fell victim since their mosque and some shops were also very close to the site,” said Saeed.
Given the possible targets of the attack — the anti-Taliban group and the Shia mosque — the bombing could have been carried out by either the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan or the rabidly anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, or by both groups, as the two al Qaeda-linked groups often pool their resources to conduct attacks.
The Commander Tariq Afridi Group, one of the most dangerous Taliban factions, operates in Hangu, as well as in Arakzai, Khyber, Peshawar, and Kohat. On Dec. 30, 2012, the Tariq Afridi group executed 21 Pakistani policemen after capturing them during raids in Peshawar. Although Tariq Afridi, the group’s emir, is rumored to have been killed, his death has not been confirmed by the Taliban.
The Taliban and the Lashkar e-Jhangvi routinely target civilians and military personnel in mosques, hospitals, and weddings, in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.