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Suicide attack 'kills five' at Pakistan mosque

AFP

Pakistani soldiers ride a truck during a 2008 military operation against militants in the Khyber tribal region. A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a mosque on Friday, killing five people in Pakistan's Taliban and Al-Qaeda infested tribal badlands on the Afghan border, officials said.

AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

ISLAMABAD: A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a mosque on Friday, killing five people in Pakistan's Taliban and Al-Qaeda infested tribal badlands on the Afghan border, officials said.


Three loyalists of local militant group Lashkar-i-Islam and two civilians were killed in Akakhel town in the Tirah valley of Khyber district, local administration official Bakhtiar Khan told AFP.


"A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a Lashkar-i-Islam mosque. Three members of Lashkar-i-Islam and two passers by have been killed in the attack. Nine people have been wounded in the incident," Khan told AFP.


The attack came exactly three weeks after a similar suicide bombing at another Lashkar-i-Islam mosque in Tirah killed 22 people and wounded another 20 after Friday prayers.


Khyber is a haven for militants linked to the Pakistani Taliban and has been the scene of fighting between the army and rebels, prompting at least 18,000 people to flee their homes in October last year.


A spokesman for Lashkar-i-Islam, which is run by warlord Mangal Bagh and which has links to Islamist militants and criminal gangs, blamed Pakistan's main umbrella Taliban faction for the attack.


Akakhel is a restive town where the rival Lashkar-i-Islam, Tehreek-e-Taliban and other local Islamist militiamen are known to compete for influence.


"Tehreek-e-Taliban sent this suicide bomber to attack our mosque but our guards identified him and opened fire at him," Lashkar-i-Islam spokesman, Hazrat Omer, told AFP by telephone.


"At that point he blew himself up and killed five people. The dead included three of our members. Seven people have been injured of which six are our colleagues," he added.


The scene of Friday's attack is 12 kilometres (seven miles) from the site of the March 2 bombing, in which most of the dead were from Lashkar-i-Islam.


Pakistan's seven tribal districts near the Afghan border are rife with homegrown insurgents, Al-Qaeda operatives and Taliban, who are understood to use rear bases in Pakistan to plot attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan.


The mountainous region lies outside direct government control and US drone strikes on militant commanders in the region are a key plank in the US strategy to defeat Al-Qaeda and reverse the insurgency in Afghanistan.


Islamist militants have killed more than 4,900 people across Pakistan since government troops raided an extremist mosque in Islamabad in July 2007.

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