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54 killed in suicide attack on Pak mosque
Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad | December 21, 2007 12:22 IST
At least 54 people were killed on Friday when a suicide bomber blew himself up during Eid prayers at a mosque in northwest Pakistan, apparently targeting former minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, who escaped unhurt.
Sherpao's son and nephew were among those wounded by the blast in the Jama Masjid in the Pakistan Muslim League-Q leader's native Sherpao village in Charsadda district in the restive North West Frontier Province. The former minister had gone with several members of his family to offer prayers at the mosque.
Witnesses said Sherpao and his kin were in the first row of the worshippers while the suicide bomber was in the second row.
"The blast occurred during the Eid prayers, and my son and nephew were wounded," said Sherpao.
At least 54 people were killed in the attack, Senior Superintendent Police, Charsadda, Feroz Shah said.
The worshippers rushed dozens of injured to a hospital while police sealed off the area and began gathering evidence. This is the second time in 2007 when a suicide bomber has targeted Sherpao.
On April 28, a total of 28 people were killed and nearly 40 others injured when a suicide attacker blew himself up at a gathering in Charsadda that was being addressed by Sherpao.
The former minister escaped with minor injuries.
The army is currently conducting a major operation in the Swat valley of NWFP against militant followers of pro-Taliban cleric Maulana Fazlullah in which nearly 300 rebels have been killed and about 200 arrested.
A spokesman for Fazlullah had recently warned that the militants would carry out suicide attacks if the army did not stop its operation and withdraw forces from Swat.