Bombs kill Pakistani refugees seeking food

  • Sat Apr 17th, 2010 10:20pm
  • News

Associated Press

KACHA PUKA, Pakistan — Two burqa-clad suicide bombers attacked people who had fled a Pakistani offensive against the Taliban close to the Afghan border, killing 41 as they lined up Saturday to register for food and other relief supplies.

The victims were among around 200,000 people to have left Orakzai since the end of last year, when the Pakistan army began offensive ground and air operations against militants.

The United Nations said it was temporarily suspending work helping displaced people in that region, Kohat, and neighboring Hangu as a result of the attack.

The registration point — essentially a small building in a dusty field — may have been hit to persuade people not to have any contact with the local administration or foreign relief groups.

The bombers, both men, were disguised in burqas, the all-encompassing veil worn by conservative Muslim women in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, allowing them to get close to the building without arousing suspicion, said police officer Abdullah Khan.

They struck within minutes of each other, with the second blast the bigger and more deadly.

Government official Dilawar Khan Bangash said 41 people were killed and 62 were wounded.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani army admitted that civilians were killed in an airstrike April 10 in the northwest that supposedly targeted militants. The army apologized — something that could help reduce anger among local tribes, whose support it needs to defeat the militants.

In a brief statement, army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said he had ordered measures be taken to avoid such “unfortunate incidents” in the future. It mentioned the name of the tribe that lost members in the air strike.

Khanan Gul Khan, who lost four relatives in the attack, said he accepted the apology.

“The dead cannot come back, but we are happy that it has been acknowledged on the highest level that we are not terrorists,” he said.

The Pakistani military regularly claims to have killed many militants in airstrikes, shellings and ground operations in the northwest, but rarely mentions civilian deaths. It is unclear whether few such deaths occur or if the army simply does not report them.

Independent accounts of army operations in the tribal regions are extremely rare. Much of the area is still controlled by militants and is out of bounds for reporters.