A pair of suicide bombers disguised as policemen killed 50 people Monday in an attack targeting a tribal meeting called to discuss the formation of an anti-Taliban militia in northwest Pakistan, officials said.
The attack occurred on the grounds of the main government compound in Mohmand, part of Pakistan's militant-infested tribal region. It was the latest strike against local tribesmen, who have been encouraged by the government to take up arms against the Taliban.
The explosions also wounded more than 100 people, many of them critically, said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister of neighbouring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The attacks were so deadly partly because the bombers had filled their suicide jackets with bullets, said Amjad Ali Khan, the top political official in Mohmand, who was at the compound in the town of Ghalanai when it was attacked.
"These bullets killed everyone who was hit," said Khan.
Both bombers were disguised in tribal police uniforms, said Khan. One was caught at the gate of the compound, but was able to detonate his explosives, he said.
One of the wounded is 45-year-old Qalandar Khan, who came to the compound to visit an imprisoned cousin and was hit by the second explosion.
"There was a deafening sound, and it caused a cloud of dust and smoke and a subsequent hue and cry," said Khan, lying in a hospital bed in his blood-soaked clothes. "There were dozens on the ground like me, bleeding and crying. I saw body parts scattered in the compound."
Political officials, journalists among killed
The dead and wounded included tribal elders, police, political officials and other civilians. Two of the dead were local TV journalists who were at the compound reporting on stories, said Shakirullah Jan, president of the Mohmand press club.
The Pakistani army has carried out operations in Mohmand to battle Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in the area, but has been unable to defeat the militants.
The military has encouraged local tribesmen to form militias to oppose the militants. The groups have had varying degrees of success and have often been targeted in deadly attacks.
Sixty-seven people died when a suicide bomber attacked a mosque in northwestern Pakistan in early November that was frequented by elders opposed to the Pakistani Taliban. The attack was in the town of Darra Adam Khel, a militant stronghold on the edge of the tribal region.
"We are not scared of such attacks and will keep on taking these enemies of humanity to task until they disappear from society," said Hussain.
Drone strike kills 7: Pakistani officials
Meanwhile, Pakistani intelligence officials say missiles fired from a U.S. drone have killed seven people in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan.
The officials said Monday's strike hit a shop and a vehicle in Khushali village in North Waziristan. The identity of those killed was not immediately known.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak to the media.
American officials rarely acknowledge the missile strikes, which Pakistan officially condemns as a violation of its sovereignty and critics say amount to an assassination campaign that may violate international law.