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Suicide bomber kills 48 at Pakistan mosque

PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- A suicide bomber struck worshippers during prayers Friday at a mosque close to the Afghan border, killing 48 people in an attack one official said may have been aimed at anti-Taliban elders praying during the holy month of Ramadan.

Militants have frequently attacked tribesmen who have dared speak up -- or raise arms -- against them in the border region, where al-Qaida and the Pakistan Taliban have long held sway. Rifts between insurgent factions have also led to mass casualty attacks there.

Pakistan has lost more than 35,000 people in militant violence since 2007, with mosques, markets and hotels all targeted. But the attack was especially shocking because it came not only on Islam's holiest day of the week, but also its holiest month, when observant Muslims fast during the daytime and spend extra time in prayer and communal activities.

"Whoever did it in the holy month of Ramadan cannot be a Muslim," said Saleem Khan, who said that in the aftermath of the blast people ran over him to escape the scene. The mosque is in Ghundi, a village in the Khyber tribal region, a part of Pakistan's tribal belt off limits to foreigners and considered too dangerous for nonlocal Pakistanis to visit. More than 300 people were at the mosque, local administrator Iqbal Khan said. The blast also wounded at least 85, according to Khalid Mumtaz, a local government official. -- AP

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