Bombings at two mosques kill 13 in Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — In what officials called the first major terrorist attack since last week’s general elections, at least 13 people were killed and 30 injured when two bombs ripped through two separate mosques Friday in a remote mountainous village in northwestern Pakistan.

The twin bombings, triggered by remote-controlled devices, targeted mosques in Baz Darra village in the Malakand region of the restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, said Abdullah Mashal, a senior government official. ‘‘Both explosions took place in two mosques, barely 100 feet apart.’’

The bombings come at a time when a coalition of political parties, led by Imran Khan, a former cricket captain, is set to take control of the province, which has been riven by Taliban insurgency. Khan advocates talks with the militants, opposes military operations there, and condemns the use of US drones in tribal regions.


Khan’s antiwar message has resonated with residents of the province, who gave his political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, a majority in the provincial assembly in the northwest. But continued violence will pose a major challenge to Khan and his political allies.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Militant violence also will test the leadership of incoming prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the leader of Pakistan Muslim League-N, who probably will assume power by the end of this month after gaining a majority in the National Assembly.

Sharif and Khan are bitter political rivals but have similar views on dealing with militants.

Sharif, too, has hinted at being open to negotiations. In the run up to the general elections, the Taliban openly threatened and targeted liberal and secular political parties, damaging their ability to run effective campaigns. But the political parties of Sharif and Khan were spared such threats. That prompted their political opponents to complain of an uneven political playing field.

The Pakistani Taliban said Wednesday that they could agree to a cease-fire if the newly elected government took ‘‘serious steps’’ before the negotiations, but the group stopped short of identifying exactly what it was seeking.


On Thursday, Taliban fighters assaulted a military convoy on the outskirts of Peshawar, killing five soldiers and wounding another five.

The soldiers from the army’s engineering unit were on their way from the southern Bannu district to Peshawar when they were fired at, said a security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as required by protocol. ‘‘This is what militants do to reciprocate the talk offer,’’ the official said bitterly.

There was no claim of responsibility in the Friday bombings, and officials struggled to understand the reasons for the attacks. Malakand is an area where militants held power before 2009, when the military carried out operations, claiming to have pushed them out.

“We have not observed any militant activity in the area since then. It has been peaceful, and the nationwide elections held on Saturday last were peaceful. So, we have no idea why and who carried out the twin attacks,’’ Mashal said.

Most of the casualties occurred in the first blast. ‘‘The roof collapsed, and many of the wounded had to be pulled out after removing the debris,’’ Mashal said.


People in the nearby mosque were alerted by the loud explosion, and most had already vacated the building when the second bombing struck. ‘‘ Just one boy got wounded,’’ Mashal said.