PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Two homicide attackers wearing police uniforms and jackets packed with explosives and bullets blew themselves up at a gathering of tribesmen to discuss the formation of an anti-Taliban militia in northwest Pakistan Monday, killing 50 people, officials said.
The meeting was being held at the main government compound in Mohmand, part of Pakistan's militant-infested tribal region. It was the latest strike against local tribesmen who have been encouraged by the government to take up arms against the Taliban.
More than 100 people were wounded, many of them critically, said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister of neighboring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Also Monday, Pakistani intelligence officials said missiles fired from a U.S. drone killed seven people in Khushali village in North Waziristan, near the border with Afghanistan.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak to the media.
Both of the bombers were disguised in tribal police uniforms, said Khan. One of them was caught at the gate of the compound, but he was able to detonate his explosives, he said.
One of the wounded in the attack was 45-year-old Qalandar Khan, who came to the compound to visit an imprisoned cousin and was hit by the second explosion.
"There was a deafening sound and it caused a cloud of dust and smoke and a subsequent hue and cry," said Khan, laying in a hospital bed in his blood-soaked clothes. "There were dozens on the ground like me, bleeding and crying. I saw body parts scattered in the compound."
The dead and wounded included tribal elders, police, political officials and other civilians. Two of the dead were local TV journalists who were at the compound reporting, said Shakirullah Jan, president of the Mohmand press club.
The Pakistani army has carried out operations in Mohmand to battle Taliban and al-Qaida fighters in the area, but it has been unable to defeat the militants.
The military has encouraged local tribesmen to form militias to oppose the militants. These groups have had varying degrees of success and have often been targeted in deadly attacks.
A homicide bomber attacked a mosque in northwestern Pakistan in early November that was frequented by elders opposed to the Pakistani Taliban, killing 67 people. The attack occurred in the town of Darra Adam Khel, a militant stronghold on the edge of the tribal region.
"We are not scared of such attacks and will keep on taking these enemies of humanity to task until they disappear from society," said Hussain, the information minister.
The U.S. has ramped up its drone attacks in Pakistan's lawless border region, and Monday's were the latest of more than 100 to hit the area this year. The strikes target key Taliban and Al Qaeda figures and attempt to weaken their capacity to attack American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
American officials rarely acknowledge the missile strikes, which Pakistan officially condemns as a violation of its sovereignty and critics say amount to an assassination campaign that may violate international law.
Most of the strikes have been in North Waziristan, where Islamist militants run terrorist training camps and plot attacks in Afghanistan.