PESHAWAR, (AFP) – A suicide bomber blew up a trailer packed with explosives at a northwest Pakistan hospital Friday, killing 11 people and apparently targeting Shiite Muslims in the fourth bombing this week.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but northwestern Pakistan is one of the most volatile parts of the nuclear-armed Muslim nation, hard hit by sectarian attacks and Taliban bombings.
A US drone attack on Friday killed four suspected militants, destroying a militant compound in the neighbouring tribal belt, which Washington brands the most dangerous place on Earth and the global headquarters of Al-Qaeda.
“The missiles hit a militant vehicle and a house in Khadar Khel town” about 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of the region’s main town Miranshah, a local security official said.
Another official said “four militants were killed and the vehicle was destroyed in the attack”, the second drone strike in the region this week.
The suicide bomber detonated at the gate of a Shiite-run hospital on the outskirts of the northwestern town of Hangu, a flashpoint for sectarian violence that traditionally flares during the current holy month of Muharram.
“Eleven people were killed and 17 injured,” Hangu police spokesman Fazal Naeem told AFP.
“It was a tractor with a trailer a carrying 250 kilograms of explosives hidden underneath materials for construction work at the hospital,” he said.
The hospital is run by a private Shiite Muslim trust, which also operates a nearby Shiite mosque and seminary, local officials said.
The blast partially damaged the mosque, vehicles and houses, and gouged a large crater out of the ground, police said.
Two days ago a teenage suicide bomber killed 17 people at a busy market in the garrison town of Kohat, which neighbours Hangu and which has been another flashpoint for attacks on Pakistan’s minority Shiite community.
Pakistan has stepped up security for Muharram, which began this week and sees tensions rise between Pakistan’s majority Sunni Muslim and minority Shiite Muslim communities, along with attacks on Shiite religious parades.
Around 4,000 people have died in suicide and bomb attacks across Pakistan since government forces raided an extremist mosque in Islamabad in 2007. The attacks have been blamed on networks linked to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
On Monday, a pair of suicide bombers killed 43 people, attacking anti-Taliban militiamen and pro-government elders in Mohmand, part of the tribal belt that Washington considers the global hub of Al-Qaeda.
The Pakistani Taliban purportedly claimed responsibility for that attack, threatening death to anyone who forms militias against the Islamists.
On Tuesday, a suicide bomber tried to assassinate the chief minister of Pakistan’s southwestern province of Baluchistan, damaging his motorcade and wounding nine people but leaving the minister unhurt.
A purported spokesman for the banned extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility, saying the official had been targeted for efforts to provide security to Shiite Muslims, who are frequently attacked in Baluchistan.