Page last updated at 15:08 GMT, Thursday, 18 February 2010

Pakistan militant group attacked by suicide bomber


At least 15 people have been killed and more than 100 injured in a suicide bomb attack on a militant gathering in north-western Pakistan, officials say.

The bomber had blown himself up among pro-Taliban militants meeting in a compound by a crowded market selling hashish, a witness told the BBC.

Customers at the market were among those killed and injured in the blast.

It happened in the Khyber tribal region close to the Afghan border, where the Taliban have a strong presence.

Over the past year north-west Pakistan has been hit by numerous attacks.

The army recently finished an offensive in the area against the Taliban.

According to a witness, the bomber walked in among militants attending a lecture session of the pro-Taliban Lashkar-e-Islam group at their compound in the Tirah valley and blew himself up.

Local people say he was able to slip past the large number of guards undetected because of the crowds visiting the market set up next to the compound, the BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad says.

Reports from the area suggest the second-in-command of Lashkar-e-Islam, one of the biggest militant organisations in the Khyber, was killed in the blast, our correspondent says.

Although no-one has yet claimed responsibility, a rival militant group is believed to be behind the attack, our correspondent adds.

The injured have been taken to hospitals in the area. Officials say they expect the death toll to rise.

Hundreds of people have died in clashes between Lashkar-e-Islam and another armed Islamic group, Ansarul Islam, both of which are banned by the government, in the region in the past few years.

Locals say government helicopters have recently helped Ansarul Islam - now re-named the Peace Committee - during clashes with Lashkar-e-Islam.

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