PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) – Pakistan authorities faced a furious backlash Sunday over security and medical failures after a suicide bomber killed 99 people at a volleyball match in one of the country’s worst attacks.
Police rounded up dozens of suspects and authorities opened an investigation into poor medical care as doctors in the remote northwest struggled to treat the casualties, many of them lying on the hospital floor.
The suicide bomber rammed a car bomb into a crowd of men, women and children watching the tournament in Shah Hasan Khan village, a pro-government area in the district of Lakki Marwat, reducing a sporting event to carnage on Friday.
Police said the death toll had risen to 99, with 87 wounded being treated in three different hospitals, making it the third deadliest attack in a nearly three-year extremist campaign in the nuclear-armed Muslim country.
“There was only one doctor on duty while there are 10 doctors working in that hospital,” said Syed Zahir Ali Shah, North West Frontier Province health minister, conceding limited health care had “caused more human losses”.
“After the blast, several hours passed but the other doctors didn’t come. I don’t know why they were missing. We have opened an inquiry and a committee has been constituted,” he said.
There were scenes of chaos Sunday at the hospital in the town of Lakki Marwat said they were short of medicine and beds, overwhelmed with casualties.
“Even now the injured are undergoing treatment on the hospital floor. Some have brought their own beds,” Doctor Usman Ali told AFP by telephone.
“My daughter died because of the poor facilities in the hospital. There was no bed, no medicine and not even the X-ray machine was working,” shopkeeper Riaz Khatok told AFP from the hospital.
“There was nowhere else in Lakki Marwat to take the wounded. Most of the dead died because of bleeding,” he added.
The local peace committee that organised the tournament and heads a local anti-Taliban militia, blamed the government for failing to prevent the attack.
“The security personnel at the checkpost didn’t search the vehicle and the militants managed to hit us. They can target us again, the government should provide security for us,” said Sher Ali Khan, one committee member.
Suspicion has fallen on Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its allies in North Waziristan, where US drone attacks have increasingly targeted Al-Qaeda fighters and the Haqqani network, which is known for attacks in Afghanistan.
For two months, Pakistani troops have pressed an offensive trying to wipe out TTP hideouts in South Waziristan, sparking multiple revenge attacks.
“We have arrested 41 suspects and are interrogating them… This village is adjacent to the Bhitni area of South Waziristan and the bomber came from that area,” district police chief Mohammad Ayub Khan told AFP.
Suicide and bomb attacks blamed on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants have killed more than 2,880 people in Pakistan since July 2007, increasingly targeting civilians as well as government security installations.
Under huge US pressure to crack down on militants destabilising the border with Afghanistan, where 113,000 US and NATO troops are fighting the Taliban, Pakistan has launched a wave of offensives in its tribal belt.
In the north, a roadside bomb killed two anti-Taliban tribal elders and wounded four others in Khararri village in Bajaur, officials said.
“The moment they got out of their vehicle a remote-controlled bomb exploded, killing the two elders and wounding four of their companions,” Naseeb Shah, a local administrative official in the area told AFP by telephone.
One of the dead, Malik Zahirullal, headed an anti-Taliban militia in Khararri, and the second man was a member of the militia, he said.
Officials said the bullet-ridden bodies of a man and woman were also found dumped on the outskirts of Khar with a letter saying: “All those who go against sharia will face the same fate, from Tehreek-e-Taliban”