South Asia

Deadly blast at Pakistan mosque

Map of north-west Pakistan

At least 24 people have been killed and 25 injured in a bombing at a mosque in the Pakistani tribal region of South Waziristan, officials say.

The blast occurred in the bazaar area of the region's main town of Wana.

Among those killed was a former member of Pakistan's National Assembly, Maulvi Noor Mohammad, officials say.

South Waziristan is at the centre of fighting between Pakistani forces and the Taliban, though Wana falls outside the area of the army's campaign.

Mr Mohammad was greeting members of the congregation outside the mosque when the attack happened.

Officials in Wana told the BBC it was carried out by a suicide bomber who walked up to Mr Mohammad and detonated his explosives as they shook hands.

Al-Qaeda link?

The former parliamentarian was a strong pro-Taliban voice and had written several books on jihad which are popular with the region's militants, says the BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad.

He also ran several bookstores and hospitals in the region.

Maulvi Mohammad recently fell foul of al-Qaeda after Pakistan's security forces killed three of the group's militants in a raid on one of his hospitals.

The militants subsequently threatened to kill him after accusing him of providing information to the authorities.

Though Wana does not fall into the part of South Waziristan where the Pakistan army has recently been conducting operations against militants, Western officials say it serves as a safe haven for the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

It is controlled by Taliban commander Maulvi Nazir, one of the key insurgent commanders in eastern Afghanistan.

Earlier in the day at least seven people were killed in a separate explosion at a tribal council in the Kurram district of north-western Pakistan, close to the Afghan border.

The district is one of the few in Pakistan or Afghanistan where local tribal militias have been able to defeat the Taliban, says our Islamabad correspondent.