PESHAWAR // A suicide bomber targeting members of an anti-Taliban militia blew himself up during funeral prayers in north-west Pakistan yesterday, killing 26 people and wounding 63 others, police said.
The attacker struck as mourners were preparing for prayers being held in open ground near corn fields in Jandol town in the district of Lower Dir, 100 kilometres from the once Taliban-infested Swat Valley.
The blast came two days after four boys connected to another north-western anti-militant group were killed in another explosion that was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for yesterday's attack.
"The death toll has risen to 26 with 63 wounded in the attack," said senior police official Salim Khan Marwat, adding that the bomber targeted members of a state-sponsored anti-Taliban militia operating in the area.
He said the bomber's head had been retrieved from the scene and indicated that the attacker, who had hidden in the nearby fields, was in his late teens.
"It was a suicide attack. A bomber came on foot and blew himself up in the middle of people as they were about to start prayers."
Local senior police official Akhtar Hayat Gandapur said there were more than 100 people attending the funeral.
The owner of a medical store in Jandol described scenes of bloody devastation following the explosion.
"I could see pools of blood everywhere on the ground with pieces of flesh lying on the ground," store owner Zahoor Khan said.
"There were mutilated bodies everywhere. People were collecting the remains of the dead in bed sheets and these scenes were very disturbing."
On Tuesday on the outskirts of the north-western city of Peshawar, gateway to the militant-infested tribal zone, the Pakistani Taliban ambushed a school bus, killing four boys and the driver.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan said the attack was to punish a local tribe that formed a lashkar, or group, against it.
The children studied at an elite English-language school of a type reviled by hardline Islamist militants who oppose what they see as western-imported, secular education.
Also in Lower Dir on Tuesday, a local leader in the area's main ruling Awami National Party was killed when a makeshift bomb blew up his vehicle.
In 2009, 30,000 Pakistani troops went into battle against Taliban fighters who for two years had terrorised people with a campaign of beheadings, violence and attacks on girls' schools in Swat and parts of Dir.
The army declared the region back under control in July of that year and said the rebels had all been killed, captured or had fled.
The army is now trying to encourage tourists to return to Swat, once beloved by Pakistani and Western holidaymakers for its stunning mountains, balmy summer weather and winter skiing, and easily accessible from the capital, Islamabad.
Bombings blamed on Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked networks have killed more than 4,630 people since 2007, destabilising the country.