Dozens die in blast targeting government offices, prison in northwest Pakistan

Two suicide bombers struck outside a government office Friday in a tribal region where Pakistan's army has fought the Taliban, killing more than 50 people and wounding more than 100.
By Haq Nawaz Khan and Joshua Partlow
Saturday, July 10, 2010

PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN -- A massive suicide bombing targeting government offices and a prison in Pakistan's volatile tribal borderlands killed about 50 people and wounded more than 70 others Friday, according to local officials.

The blast, one of the deadliest in Pakistan this year, tore through a large crowd, including disabled people who were at the government center in the Mohmand Agency to collect wheelchairs, Pakistani officials said. The agency is part of the northwestern Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Dozens of shops and buildings buckled, and a barrier wall at the prison collapsed, freeing several insurgents, a Pakistani intelligence official said. The Associated Press put the death toll at 62, with at least 111 people injured.

The attack showed the resilience of insurgents along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, a rugged region that is the main refuge for Taliban and al-Qaeda militants still willing to strike at government installations despite a stepped-up military campaign by the Pakistani army.

The army has failed to defeat insurgents in Mohmand after years of fighting.

Ghulam Rasool, the deputy political administrator of Mohmand, told local reporters that the blast had targeted his office but that he was not there at the time and was unharmed. Other officials said four policemen were among the dead.

One bomb was transported on a motorcycle, officials said, and the AP reported that a second bomb exploded nearly simultaneously.

Some officials described the prison as the primary target. A political officer in the region told local reporters that about 25 prisoners, including four insurgents, fled the prison when its main gate and a portion of the boundary wall caved in.

"The target was mainly the prison in Yaka Ghund, to release some of the arrested militants," the intelligence official said.

Partlow reported from Kabul. Khan is a special correspondent.

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