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34 slain in bombing at funeral in Pakistan

A suicide bomber detonates his explosives among mourners at a funeral held by an anti-Taliban militia in the northwest, near Peshawar. Local militias fighting militants complain of inadequate aid from the government.

March 10, 2011|By Alex Rodriguez and Zulfiqar Ali, Los Angeles Times
  • A man stands next to a heap of sandals at the site of a suicide bombing attack on the outskirts of Peshawar. The bomber targeted a funeral held for the wife of an anti-Taliban militia member.
A man stands next to a heap of sandals at the site of a suicide bombing attack… (Fayaz Aziz, Reuters )

Reporting from Islamabad and Peshawar, Pakistan — A suicide bombing killed at least 34 people and injured more than 40 at a funeral held by an anti-Taliban tribal militia Wednesday in northwest Pakistan, prompting militia leaders to angrily rebuke the government for failing to provide enough support for their battle against insurgents.

The attack occurred in the village of Adezai, about 15 miles south of the city of Peshawar and just east of the volatile tribal areas where Al Qaeda and Taliban militants maintain strongholds.

A teenage boy appeared at the funeral and was thought to be a mourner, witnesses and local police said. But just as prayers began, the boy moved into the crowd and detonated explosives hidden under his shawl.

The funeral was for the wife of one of the militia members and was attended by about 500 people. Members of the militia, known as a lashkar, complained that local officials had not provided security for the funeral. Witnesses said armed militiamen ringed the mourners, but the boy was able to get through undetected.

"It's not possible for our volunteers to bodily search everyone," said Syed Muhammad, a member of the lashkar. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, the Associated Press reported.

Federal and provincial government leaders have urged tribes in regions battling militancy to form militias to help protect their own territories. Villagers have formed lashkars in the Swat Valley, where the army routed Taliban insurgents in 2009; in the largely lawless tribal regions along the Afghan border; and in villages surrounding Peshawar, the capital of the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

The militias have had varying success in keeping militants out of their villages. But many of their leaders have complained that their pleas for support, particularly for new firearms and ammunition, have gone ignored by authorities.

"What wrong have we done?" Dilawar Khan, a militia leader, told a Pakistani television channel. "We're getting neither bullets nor guns. When we demand bullets, the authorities ask us how many Taliban fighters we have killed. I want to ask the government how many Taliban fighters have they killed."

Khan said his militia would abandon its fight against the Taliban if the government failed to adequately equip his men. Authorities' reluctance to provide consistent funding and arms to the lashkars stems largely from a fear that well-armed militias could abuse their power.

Bashir Bilour, a senior minister in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, said authorities had suspended support of the Adezai lashkar because members allegedly had been carrying out kidnappings.

Bilour said attacks like the one in Adezai should send a message to leaders in Islamabad, the capital, that eradicating Pakistan's homegrown insurgency is the country's top priority.

"Don't get involved in arguments about 10-point agendas, democracy versus dictatorship, my government versus your government," Bilour said. "Set aside these issues and give top priority to Pakistan's main problem, which is terrorism."

alex.rodriguez@latimes.com

Times staff writer Rodriguez reported from Islamabad and special correspondent Ali reported from Peshawar. Special correspondent Nasir Khan in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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