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41 Killed in Twin Suicide Bomb Attacks in NW Pakistan

Pakistani authorities say two suicide bombers exploded in the middle of a crowd of displaced people in northwest Pakistan on Saturday as the civilians lined up to register for aid. Police say the attack killed at least 41 people and wounded more than 60 others.

No one immediately claimed responsibility, which is common when most of the victims are civilians. However, the violence occurred just outside a stronghold of Taliban militants who are battling with the Pakistani military.

Police in the Kacha Pukka area of Kohat, one of Pakistan's tribally administered regions near the Afghan border, say the suicide bombers were wearing burqas when they exploded in a group of displaced people.

These full body coverings worn by conservative Muslim women concealed the explosives and the identity of the attackers.

Speaking to VOA late Saturday, the head of the United Nations' Office for Coordinating Humanitarian Affairs in Pakistan, Manuel Bessler, said his group has taken immediate action following the attack.

"We suspended registration, so these points are closed today and tomorrow. We have to sit together with our security people with also the authorities how better we can protect these several thousands of targets," he said.

Kohat borders the Orakzai tribal agency, where the Pakistani military has been battling Taliban militants that fled an earlier military offensive to the south.

Bessler says these ongoing battles in Pakistan's northwest have left an estimated 1.2 million people displaced from their homes.

Retired Brigadier General Mahmood Shah used to oversee the security of Pakistan's tribal regions. He tells VOA that he believes Taliban militants are responsible for Saturday's attack, and that he expects more violence against so-called "soft targets" in the future.

"There was a recent attack when patients were carried to a hospital; there was an attack in the hospital. And here also in this case two attacks. They appear to be on 'soft targets,' probably as a last resort," he said.

Shah says the militants currently lack the resources to attack more secure targets, such as Pakistani military positions. He says he believes the militants are trying to cause as much damage as possible with these attacks to put pressure on the government.

Since the Pakistani military launched operations against Taliban fighters near the Afghan border last October, most of the militant attacks have targeted security forces, including the country's separate army and naval headquarters late last year.