Suicide bomb attack deaths increase to 93

Local residents remove dead bodies from the scene of the attack in the village of Shah Hasan Khan in Pakistan. (AFP)

Investigators sifted through rubble yesterday after a suicide car bomber detonated his explosive-filled vehicle in a crowd watching a volleyball game in northwest Pakistan, killing at least 93.

Friday's bombing marked a bloody start to 2010 for Pakistan, which has seen a surge in attacks blamed on the Taliban in recent months as extremist fighters avenge military operations aimed at crushing their northwestern strongholds.

The huge blast in the village of Shah Hasan Khan in Bannu district, bordering the Taliban stronghold of Waziristan, was Pakistan's deadliest in more than two months. It caused the collapse of more than 20 houses, some with families inside.

In Islamabad, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani denounced the deadly attack and said the authorities were determined to stamp out terrorism from the country.

"The entire nation is against terrorists," he told reporters. "Their agenda is foreign. Their agenda is to destabilise the government, deteriorate law and order and create fear and panic.:

"We have the ability and resolve to eliminate terrorists," he said, adding that help would come from the international community.

In Shah Hasan Khan, a local resident, Riaz Ahmad, said that pieces of human flash and dried blood could still be seen on the ground and people were sifting through rubble searching for dead and injured.

The bomber drove a pick-up vehicle packed with some 300 kilogrammes of explosives onto the site of the volleyball match and detonated his lethal cargo.

"Five more people died yesterday in the government's main hospital in Lakki Marwat town, raising the death toll to 93," said District Police Chief Mohammad Ayub Khan, blaming militants who were targeted in a military operation in Bannu last year.

Six children and five paramilitary soldiers were among the dead. Khan said a three-member team had been formed to investigate.

Collective funerals for 10 victims were held in the village, while others were being buried individually, said local police spokesman Shahid Hameed.

The volleyball tournament was organised by a peace committee which had supported a government operation to expel militants from the area.

It was the highest death toll from a militant strike since a massive car bomb on October 28 killed 125 people in a crowded market in Peshawar, the northwestern provincial capital.

 

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