At least 49 people were killed and over 70 injured when a motorcycle-borne suicide bomber targeted a government office in a crowded market in Pakistan's restive tribal belt on Friday, the latest in a wave of terror attacks that have rocked the country. The attacker detonated his explosives outside the office of the assistant political agent at Yakaghund village in Mohmand Agency. Hundreds of people were present outside the office and in the nearby market, witnesses said. Political Agent Amjad Ali Khan, the region's top government official, told reporters that 49 people were killed and 73 others injured in the attack.
Four persons succumbed to their injuries at the state-run Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, said Abdul Hamid Afridi, the chief executive of the hospital. Another 66 injured people were being treated at the hospital and eight of them are in a serious condition, Afridi said. Women, children and personnel of the Khasadar militia were among the dead and injured. A prison, some other government offices and dozens of shops were damaged by the powerful explosion. Several buildings, including three restaurants, collapsed and officials said some people could still be buried under the debris. Security forces cordoned off the area around the site of the blast as rescue workers began clearing the rubble and removing the bodies and the injured. Ambulances and heavy machinery were sent to Yakaghund from Peshawar to help the rescue operations. Ishaq Khan, a security guard at the office that was targeted, said the suicide bomber had come to the market on a motorcycle. The attacker did not stop when security personnel asked him to. "Then he suddenly fell and there was a powerful blast," Khan said.
Officials said members of a local "peace committee" or anti-Taliban militia, who had come to Yakaghund to meet the assistant political agency, could have been the bomber's main target. No group claimed responsibility for the attack. The Pakistan Army has been conducting operations against the local Taliban in Mohmand Agency. Officials say militants fleeing an army operation in Bajaur Agency have taken shelter in Mohmand Agency. Last month, a large number of militants attacked a security check post in Mohmand Agency and kidnapped dozens of paramilitary troops. The spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, Mohammad Omar, was arrested in Mohmand Agency last year. Today's blast came a week after two back-to-back suicide bombings inside Pakistan's highly venerated Sufi shrine of Data Darbar in Lahore killed 45 people and wounded 180 others.