An elderly Pakistani man is assisted by a relative while receiving emergency… (Hasham Ahmed, AFP/Getty…)
Reporting from Peshawar, Pakistan, and Islamabad, — Three bomb blasts killed 34 people Monday in northwestern Pakistan, authorities said. Though no one claimed responsibility for the attacks, they came at a time when government officials have been warning that Islamic militants might try to exploit the strain that this summer's catastrophic floods have put on the country's military and government by unleashing a new wave of violence.
One of the attacks occurred in South Waziristan, a tribal area along the Afghan border long regarded as a stronghold for the Pakistani Taliban. A teenage suicide bomber appeared at a mosque in the town of Wana where 200 worshipers were praying and detonated explosives strapped to his body, witnesses said. The blast killed 25 people and injured 36, hospital officials said.
Among the dead was Maulana Noor Muhammad, a former lawmaker and head of the Islamic school where the mosque was located. He had just finished translating verses from the Koran when the blast occurred. Muhammad was a member of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazlur Rehman) party, which historically has been sympathetic to the Taliban movement.
"I saw a teenager who shook hands with Maulana Noor Muhammad before detonating the explosives," said Ayub Wazir, a worshiper who survived the blast.
The motive of the attack was unclear. At times, violence in the tribal areas occurs between rival tribal and militant factions.
A second attack occurred in the Kurram tribal district when a remote-controlled bomb exploded in a school where tribal elders had been meeting in the village of Parachamkani. The blast killed six people and injured seven, authorities said.
In the third attack, a bomb planted in a pushcart exploded in the early evening in the town of Mattani, killing three people and injuring six, police said. Dilawar Khan, head of a local anti-Taliban militia, said his group was the target of the attack on the outskirts of northwestern Pakistan's largest city, Peshawar. Two of the dead were members of the militia.
In both South Waziristan and Kurram, Pakistani troops have launched offensives in the last year to flush out Taliban militants and reestablish governmental control. Despite the offensives, pockets of militants remain active in many parts of the tribal areas.
Last week, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister for northwestern Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, warned that militants had been regrouping in the tribal areas to take advantage of a period in which the state has had to deploy thousands of Pakistani soldiers and police to cope with the ongoing flood crisis, which has killed more than 1,600 people and submerged vast areas of the country.
On Monday in the tribal district of North Waziristan, two U.S. drone missile strikes killed 12 people and injured 15, intelligence sources said.
One of the missiles targeted Dandy Darpakhel, an area known as a stronghold of the Haqqani network, a wing of the Afghan Taliban. Among the seven killed were four women, the sources said. The other strike killed five people in the village of Derga Mandai, sources said.
Special correspondent Ali reported from Peshawar and staff writer Rodriguez from Islamabad.