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Suicide bomber kills 48 at Pakistan mosque

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A suicide bomber struck worshipers during prayers Friday at a mosque close to the Afghan border, killing 48 people and wounding 85 in an attack one official said may have been aimed at anti-Taliban elders praying during the holy month of Ramadan.

Militants have frequently attacked tribesmen who have dared speak up — or raise arms — against them in the border region, where al-Qaida and the Pakistan Taliban have long held sway. Rifts between insurgent factions have also led to mass casualty attacks there.

Pakistan has lost more than 35,000 people in militant violence since 2007, with mosques, markets and hotels all targeted. But the latest attack was especially shocking because it came not only on Islam's holiest day of the week, but also its holiest month, when observant Muslims fast during the daytime and spend extra time in prayer and communal activities.

The mosque is in Ghundi, a village in the Khyber tribal region, a part of Pakistan's tribal belt off limits to foreigners and considered too dangerous for non-local Pakistanis to visit.

More than 300 people were at the mosque, local administrator Iqbal Khan said.

The blast killed 48 people, according to Khalid Mumtaz, a local government official.

A top provincial official told the Associated Press that several elders of the Maddo Khel tribe who were in the mosque could have been the targets. He said the tribe had been campaigning against the militants in the area, with the backing of the government. The official did not give his name because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Suicide bomber kills 48 at Pakistan mosque 08/19/11 [Last modified: Friday, August 19, 2011 10:59pm]
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