Pakistan volleyball blast kills dozens

A suicide bomber blew himself up in an SUV at a volleyball game in north-west Pakistan on Friday, killing 93 people in a village that opposes al Qaeda-linked Taliban insurgents, police said.

The bomber struck as young men played volleyball in front of a crowd of spectators, including elderly residents and children, near the town of Lakki Marwat, officials said.

The bloodshed will put President Asif Ali Zardari’s efforts to fight the Taliban under greater scrutiny, pressure he does not need at a time when corruption cases against his allies could be revived.

“It’s just a disaster. I can see flesh, bodies and wounded all around,” Fazl-e-Akbar, a witness, told Reuters by telephone. “It’s dark. Vehicles’ headlights are being used to search for victims.”

Local police chief Ayub Khan said the bomber blew himself up in his sport utility vehicle in the middle of the field. A second vehicle was believed to have fled the scene.

“We have removed all bodies and wounded from the rubble,” Khan said, adding that 93 people were killed.

It was one of the bloodiest bombings in US ally Pakistan since the October 2007 attack that killed at least 139 people when former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, Zardari’s wife, returned home from self-imposed exile.

An attack on a sporting event is highly unusual, but could be part of the militants’ strategy of bombing crowded areas such as markets to inflict mass casualties and spread fear and chaos.

Police said the village had formed an armed anti-Taliban militia, a phenomenon that started in Pakistan last year.

Despite major military offensives against their strongholds, the Taliban have killed hundreds of people in bombings.

Britain’s Foreign Office described the attack as horrific and said it underlined the urgent need to fight extremism.

“It is a threat that the international community must help Pakistan to tackle, in the interests both of Pakistan’s people and of wider stability,” it said in a statement.

In a sign of growing security fears, the United Nations will withdraw some of its staff from Pakistan because of safety concerns, a UN spokesperson said on Thursday.

“We have got to be on the offensive and launch precise strikes on [militant] training centres and hideouts. They’re losing the battle. Nobody in our society supports them,” North West Frontier Province’s information minister, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, told Reuters.

Violence has intensified since July 2007 when the army cleared militants from a radical mosque in Islamabad.

Military call shots
Zardari’s options are limited. Security policies are set by Pakistan’s all-powerful military, which nurtured militants in the 1980s to fight Soviet occupation troops in Afghanistan.

Washington wants Pakistan to root out militants who cross into Afghanistan to attack US- and Nato-led troops. But doing so would require strategic sacrifices. Pakistan sees them as leverage against arch-enemy India in Afghanistan.

Washington, frustrated by what it says are inadequate efforts to wipe out the militants, has stepped up pilotless US drone aircraft attacks on Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in Pakistan.

While the strikes killed high-profile figures, they have also generated anti-American anger, making it difficult for Zardari to accommodate his US supporters.

The latest attack came on a day of strikes in the southern city of Karachi, the country’s biggest and its commercial capital, to denounce violence gripping the nuclear-armed nation.

The strikes were called by religious and political leaders after a suicide bomber killed 43 people at a religious procession on Monday. The Taliban claimed responsibility and threatened more violence.

“They are hired assassins. They are enemies of Pakistan. They are enemies of Islam,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters on a trip to Karachi to show support for residents.

Security forces carried out patrols. But residents were taking no chances.

“We are already losing business and can’t take the risk of going out today and opening our shops,” said Saleem Ahmed, who sells electronics at one of the city’s markets. – Reuters

Advertisting

Mabuza’s ‘distant relative’ scored big

Eskom’s woes are often because of boiler problems at its power plants. R50-billion has been set aside to fix them, but some of the contracts are going to questionable entities

ANC faction gunning for Gordhan

The ambush will take place at an NEC meeting about Eskom. But the real target is Cyril Ramaphosa

Despite tweet, Zuma keeps silent about providing his taxpayer information

The Public Protector has still not received confirmation from former president Jacob Zuma that she may access his tax records —...

Ahead of WEF, Mboweni will have to assure investors that...

The finance minister says despite the difficult fiscal environment, structural reforms are under way to put SA on a new growth path
Advertising

Press Releases

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.

2020 risk outlook: Use GRC to build resilience

GRC activities can be used profitably to develop an integrated risk picture and response, says ContinuitySA.

MTN voted best mobile network

An independent report found MTN to be the best mobile network in SA in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Is your tertiary institution is accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Is your tertiary institution accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

VUT chancellor, Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi, dies

The university conferred the degree of Doctor of Science Honoris Causa on Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi for his outstanding leadership contributions to maths and science education development.

Innovate4AMR now in second year

SA's Team pill-Alert aims to tackle antimicrobial resistance by implementing their strategic intervention that ensures patients comply with treatment.

Medical students present solution in Geneva

Kapil Narain and Mohamed Hoosen Suleman were selected to present their strategic intervention to tackle antimicrobial resistance to an international panel of experts.