Peace Jirga Targetted by a Suicide Bomber - Violence on the Rise

25 killed in Pakistan suicide attack: officials, state TV
AFP - March 2, 2008

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) — A suicide bomb attack at a gathering of tribal elders and local officials in northwest Pakistan on Sunday killed at least 25 people, officials and state media said.

The blast took place in Zarghon village near the tribal town of Darra Adam Khel, the scene of violent clashes between Pakistani troops and Islamic militants earlier this year, said local security official Shireen Khan.

State television said at least 25 people were killed and many others wounded.

Khan said the head of the suspected suicide bomber had been recovered at the scene.

Hundreds of elders from five tribes had convened a traditional council, known as a "jirga", to discuss "efforts to check growing Taliban activity in the area," according to local administration official Khalid Khan.

The elders and local officials had just finished their talks when the bomb exploded, he said, telling AFP that body parts were strewn across the site.

"There were heavy casualties -- we are shifting them to Peshawar," he said.

In Peshawar, the main city in North West Frontier Province, at least 12 people were brought to Lady Reading Hospital for treatment, doctor Mohammad Ashraf told AFP.

Three died of their injuries and several others were in critical condition, he said.

Security officials said the lawless town of Darra Adam Khel had recently become a stronghold of the banned Sunni Muslim extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which is said to have links to Al-Qaeda.

In January, Pakistani forces mounted a major offensive to clear Islamic insurgents from a major road tunnel in the area. At least 13 soldiers and 50 militants were killed in the heavy fighting.

The militant occupation of the Japanese-built tunnel had blocked traffic between Peshawar and the city of Kohat.

The unrest started after militants seized four military trucks loaded with ammunition near Darra Adam Khel, which is known for its weapons bazaar and illegal arms manufacturing factories.

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