Islamabad: Eighteen people were killed and over 40 others injured today when a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into the office of a pro-government militia in the restive Darra Adam Khel region of northwest Pakistan.
The powerful blast ripped through the office of the "aman committee" or militia in the central market of Darra Adam Khel. Members of the militia, formed to fight the Taliban, and tribal elders were among the dead and injured.
Sixteen people were killed instantly and the others died later in hospital. Two children were among the injured.
People with serious injuries were rushed to the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar,the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
Officials at the hospital said they had received six bodies and more than 30 injured, including seven who were in a serious condition. More than 30 shops and eight cars were destroyed by the blast, police officials and witnesses said.
No group claimed responsibility for the incident though such attacks are usually blamed on the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which has targeted government-backed militias in the past.
The Taliban had a strong presence in the Darra Adam Khel region till the Army launched an operation to flush them out of the area in 2009.
Today`s attack came four days after the Taliban tried to assassinate teenage rights activist Malala Yousufzai in their former stronghold of Swat.
The 14-year-old is currently in the critical care unit of
a military hospital in Rawalpindi and the attack on her has been condemned by people across Pakistan.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said the militants were trying to increase pressure on the authorities following reports that a fresh operation could be launched against them in the tribal belt.
"Following a meeting of the President and the army chief, there are indications that an operation may be launched. In the past too, the militants tried to create pressure in Peshawar and nearby areas so that no operations are launched against them," he told reporters after visiting those injured in today`s attack.
"We think that when there is no success in ushering in peace through talks, then the time has come to take effective action against them instead of them attacking us. We have to make sacrifices even if no action is taken and it is better to take effective action and make sacrifices to restore peace," said Hussain, whose only son was gunned down by the Taliban.