KHAR, Pakistan – Tribesmen in a troubled border district of northwest Pakistan on Saturday buried the victims of a deadly suicide attack as the death toll rose to 29, officials said.
Government offices and private markets in Bajaur remained closed to mourn the deaths as local tribesmen held funerals in different parts of the district, witnesses said.
A teenage suicide bomber blew himself up on Friday in a bustling square in Khar, the main town of Bajaur tribal district, near the Afghan border.
Paramilitary troops and tribal police were seen patrolling the streets and bazaars on Saturday while roads and markets were deserted with educational institutions closed.
“Five critically injured succumbed to their injuries overnight in hospitals. The death toll has now risen to 29,” Jahanzeb Dawar, a senior hospital official in Khar, told AFP.
It was the deadliest bombing in Pakistan since February 17, when 31 people were killed by a suicide attack on Shiite Muslims in the tribal district of Kurram.
Bajaur has been one of the toughest battlegrounds in Pakistan’s fight against a Taliban insurgency in the northwest of the country.
Among the dead were the local chief and deputy of a tribal police force recruited by the government to help defeat the militants. Such forces are frequently targeted by insurgents linked to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
According to an AFP tally, around 5,000 people have been killed in militant attacks across the country since July 2007, when government troops raided an extremist mosque in the capital Islamabad, sparking a bloody insurgency.
The military conducted major anti-Taliban offensives in Bajaur in August 2008 and February 2009, and has repeatedly declared the district secure.
But militants have still proved able to strike.
Pakistan has lost more than 3,000 soldiers in the fight against homegrown insurgents but has resisted US pressure to do more to eliminate havens used by those fighting the Americans in Afghanistan.