Islamabad: A teenage suicide bomber targeted security personnel in a bustling market in the restive Bajaur tribal region of northwest Pakistan today, killing 24 people and injuring nearly 60 others.
The security personnel had gathered at a shop at the bazar in Khar, the main town of Bajaur Agency near the Afghan border, after conducting a patrol when the teenage attacker approached them and detonated his suicide vest, witnesses said.
Four personnel of the Levies militia, including the local chief of the force, and a government official were among the dead.
Officials said the bomber had targeted two Levies officers, including one who had received a medal for bravery.
The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying it wanted to kill the local chief and deputy of the Levies force as they were fighting militants in the region.
Witnesses said the suicide bomber was aged between 14 and 17 years.
Officials said they had found the body parts of the attacker.
Footage on television showed several shops were reduced to a pile of bricks by the powerful explosion.
People dug through the rubble with their hands and removed four bodies.
Bloodstained currency notes, ID cards and shoes could be seen lying at the site.
Soon after the blast, security forces cordoned off the market while authorities imposed curfew in Khar.
Troops set up check posts and began checking people.
Two suspected militants were arrested and suicide vests and grenades were seized from them.
At least five persons, including security personnel and pro-government tribesmen, were killed by two bomb blasts in Bajaur Agency yesterday.
The Pakistan Army has conducted several operations in the region to flush out pro-Taliban militants.