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Suicide Bombing at Mosque in Northwest Pakistan Kills 50


Pakistani officials say at least 50 people have been killed in a suicide bombing at a mosque in the country's restive northwest, during prayers for the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival. Officials say a former interior minister appeared to be the target of the attack. VOA's Purnell Murdock has details from our news center in Washington.

Police in Charsadda - a district in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province - say hundreds of worshippers were packed in a mosque inside the residential compound of former interior minister Aftab Sherpao at the time of the blast early Friday.

Witnesses say the bombing, which came during the Islamic holy day of Eid-al-Adha, created a scene of carnage, with bloody clothes and body parts strewn about the mosque.

Akbar Khan, a Charsadda resident, was at the scene of the blast.

Khan says he and other worshippers had finished their Eid prayers when the blast suddenly erupted. After that, he says, he does not know what happened.

Local police say the attacker blew himself up in a row of worshippers behind Sherpao and his son. A spokesman said the former interior minister was unhurt, but that one his sons was wounded.

It was the second attempt on the life of Sherpao, who is an ally of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, and is contesting for a parliamentary seat in next month's general election. He was wounded in a suicide attack on his party's gathering in Charsadda eight months ago.

There has been a surge in violence in northwestern Pakistan since security forces ousted armed pro-Taliban militants from the radical Red Mosque in Islamabad in July.

Pakistani soldiers in the past weeks drove out militants from small towns in Swat Valley - a popular resort in the northwest. The army said some 300 militants were killed during the operation.