Pakistanis search rubble after deadly attack

YAKAGHUND, Pakistan — As Adnan Khan sifted through the rubble in this northwest Pakistani village Saturday, his grief mingled with a sense of disbelief. Of the 102 people killed by a pair of suicide bombers here the day before, 10 were his relatives. Aunts, uncles, cousins — all perished in the deadliest attack in Pakistan this year.

"People came here yesterday to receive biscuits and edible oil," the college student said. "I don't know why terrorists killed them."

Yakaghund lies in Mohmand, one of several regions in Pakistan's tribal belt where al-Qaida and Taliban militants are believed to be hiding. The Friday strike showed that Islamist extremists remain a deadly force in this area bordering Afghanistan, despite pressure from army offensives or drone-fired U.S. missiles.

Although the Pakistani Taliban said anti-militant tribal elders were the target, it was dozens of ordinary men and women who bore the brunt of the strike. Many had lined up nearby to pick up donated food and goods such as farm equipment when the blasts occurred.

The bombs' target appeared to be the office of Rasool Khan, a deputy Mohmand administrator, that tribal elders were visiting. Local journalists told the Associated Press that Pakistani Taliban spokesman Akramullah Mohmand had called them late Friday and claimed responsibility.

None of those elders were hurt, officials said. Some are believed to have been involved in citizens' militias that have risen against the insurgents.

The attack also wounded 168 people in Yakaghund, a village of 4,000 that lies on the edge of Mohmand and the Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province. Some 70 to 80 shops were damaged or destroyed, while damage to a prison building allowed 28 inmates — ordinary criminals, not militants — to flee, Rasool Khan said.

Some houses nearby, including those belonging to Adnan Khan's relatives, also were leveled.

People on Saturday kept up the search through the piles of brick and rubble left behind. As of midday, at least 15 people were still believed to be trapped beneath the rubble, said Ibrahim Khan, a security official who gave the latest casualty tolls.

Sher Afzal, 22, hoped his uncle and cousin would be found.

"My uncle came here to collect his national identity card (from a government office), and he is still missing with his son," Afzal said. "We have checked all the hospitals, but we could not trace them."

The U.S. has pushed Islamabad to clamp down on militants who threaten Western troops across the border in Afghanistan and to destabilize nuclear-armed Pakistan itself.

The Pakistani army has carried out operations in Mohmand, but it has been unable to drive out the Islamist militants hiding there. Its efforts to rely on citizen militias to take on the militants have had limited success in Mohmand.