Page last updated at 12:48 GMT, Tuesday, 19 August 2008 13:48 UK

Pakistan hospital bomb kills many


Aftermath of the bomb attack in Pakistan

At least 25 people have been killed in a suicide bomb attack on a hospital in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, police say.

The attack happened at midday as Shia Muslims gathered at the hospital in Dera Ismail Khan district to mourn a local leader who had been shot dead.

There was also more fighting between militants and soldiers in the Bajaur district on the Afghan border.

The violence comes a day after Pervez Musharraf resigned as president.

Coalition parties are expected to meet to discuss later on Tuesday to discuss candidates to succeed him.

Security will be a key concern for whoever succeeds the outgoing president.

Mourners struck

Salahuddin Khan, the head of the police station in Dera Ismail Khan, told the BBC the explosion was "definitely a suicide attack".

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"At the moment I can say that 25 people have died in the attack," he said.

He added that the motive was almost certainly sectarian. The region has a history of Shia-Sunni tensions.

Two police officers were believed to be among the dead and at least 24 other people were injured, police said.

The attack took place outside the hospital's emergency centre, where mourners had gathered after the body of local Shia leader Zaffar Jajjee was brought in.

Police officials say the suicide bomber blew himself up in a dense crowd.

An emergency was declared at the hospital and a tight security cordon thrown around the compound.

Maulvi Omar, a spokesman for the militant group Tehrik-e-Taleban Pakistan, told the BBC Urdu service that it had carried out the attack.

"We have carried out the attack in retaliation for the government's actions in Bajaur," he said.

"Musharraf may be gone but his policies remain."

Over the last three weeks, 15 people have been killed in Dera Ismail Khan in drive-by sectarian shootings.

Almost all are blamed on the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Pakistan's deadliest militant group, which is known to have close links to al-Qaeda and the Taleban.

Fort attacked

In Bajaur district, at least 19 people were killed in clashes between pro-Taleban militants and security forces.

The dead included five soldiers and 14 militants, local officials said.

Fighting broke out when militants attacked a paramilitary fort with mortars and other heavy weapons.

Eyewitnesses told the BBC that the militants had taken away their dead comrades after the skirmish.

Meanwhile, the bodies of 14 soldiers killed in fighting 10 days earlier have been handed over to a peace committee by the Taleban.

Last week the army said that more than 150 militants and 13 soldiers had been killed in a week of fighting in Bajaur. Militants put their dead at about a dozen.

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