THE death toll from a suicide bombing on a mosque in northwest Pakistan has risen to 68, officials said.
A suicide bomber struck the mosque during the main weekly prayers on Friday. It was followed by a grenade assault on a second mosque in the same area which killed at least four people.
“Sixty-eight people are now confirmed dead in the bombing,” top local administration official Shahidullah told AFP.
The blast turned worship into a bloodbath in Akhurwall village, part of the semi-tribal northwest area of Darra Adam Khel, about 140km west of the Pakistani capital Islamabad.
The official said the death toll might rise after many people took away the bodies of their loved ones from the site of the attack so those were not included in the grim counting process.
Police officials confirmed the rise in the death toll.
Khalid Umarzai, a regional administrator, suggested the attack could have been retaliation for military operations targeting Islamist militants.
“An operation is going on by the army and Frontier Corps (paramilitary) in the Darra Adam Khel area. We had been expecting such attacks,” he said.
Around 3800 people have been killed in suicide attacks and bombings, blamed on homegrown Taliban and other Islamist extremist networks, since government troops stormed a radical mosque in Islamabad three years ago.
The US wants Pakistan’s military to do more to fight insurgents crossing into Afghanistan and fuelling a nine-year Taliban uprising there.
Washington brands Pakistan’s northwest tribal area an al-Qaeda headquarters, although there has been a relative lull in violence since Pakistan suffered catastrophic floods in late July that affected more than 20 million people.