Bombs that exploded outside two mosques in a village in northwestern Pakistan killed at least 15 people on Friday, underlining the challenge of militant violence facing a new government set to take power under the leadership of former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
The blasts at the two Sunni mosques also wounded 70 people, tribal police officer Mohammad Jamil Khan said. Both of the mosques were badly damaged and the roof of one of them collapsed. The mosques were located in Baz Darrah Village in the Malakand District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, said Badshah Rehman, another tribal police officer.
Shahid Ali, who was in the first mosque that was attacked, said the explosion came just as worshipers were starting Friday prayers.
“I rushed out with others and saw several people bleeding and crying,” Ali told reporters by telephone. “There was dust and smoke around.”
Ali rushed to the second mosque after it was attacked and saw that its roof had caved in and it was on fire.
Rescue workers were trying to retrieve the dead and wounded from the debris, Rehman said.
Ameer Wahab, an injured college student at a hospital, said he was among more than 100 people inside the main hall of the mosque where the imam had just finished the Friday sermon when a deafening bang was heard from the veranda of the mosque.
“I don’t know how I managed to get out of that hell. There was fire and debris, my feet, my face was burning and something hit me at arm,” Wahab told reporters.
Dr Zardost Khan at Dargai Hospital said 35 injured and one dead were brought to his hospital while many more injured and dead were taken to other hospitals in surrounding areas.
No one has claimed responsibility for the blasts, but suspicion will likely fall on the Pakistani Taliban. The Sunni militant group has been waging a bloody insurgency against the government for years.
The Taliban recently launched a series of attacks in the run-up to national elections on May 11 in an attempt to derail the vote.
Pakistanis defied the militant group by coming out in large numbers to cast their ballots.
Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N Party was the big winner in the election and appears set to form the next government. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party, led by former cricket star Imran Khan, is expected to form the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Both politicians have called for negotiations with the Taliban and Khan has said Pakistani troops should stop battling the militants and pull out of areas of the northwest. Now, he faces the task of applying his election platform to one of Pakistan’s most violent areas.