By PIR ZUBAIR SHAH and SALMAN MASOOD
Published: February 18, 2010
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A bomb blast in the Khyber tribal area has killed at least 30 people and wounded more than 70 others, residents and security officials in the region said Thursday.
The blast struck a meeting of the militants in the Aka Khel area of the Khyber tribal region, near the Afghan border. Local residents and security officials said a local militant commander, Azam Khan, was killed in the explosion. Mr. Khan, who ran the local FM radio station, was delivering a sermon on the radio when the blast occurred.
There were no claims of responsibility, and the blast appeared to be either an accident or the result of fighting among militants.
Mr. Khan was affiliated with Lashkar-e-Islam, a militant group headed by the militant commander Mangal Bagh. The Khyber District borders the Orakzai tribal region, and an intelligence official said some of the dead were affiliated with Maulvi Noor Jamal, a Pakistani Taliban commander in the tribal areas of Orakzai and Kurram.
A Pakistani intelligence official in Peshawar said the militants were using the mosque as their headquarters and were busy in preparing suicide vests and roadside bombs. The blast happened when one of the vests exploded, he said, adding that the death toll was so high because the mosque is near a market for cattle and hashish.
Another possible cause for the explosion, Pakistani officials said, was that the blast on Thursday was a result of a power struggle between Lashkar-e-Islam and Ansar-ul-Islam, a rival banned militant group.
Both groups have clashed in the past in their efforts to take control of Khyber, which is adjacent to the provincial capital Peshawar and serves as an important supply line for transportation of goods intended for NATO troops in Afghanistan.
Pir Zubair Shah reported from Peshawar, and Salman Masood from Islamabad, Pakistan.