Pakistani tribal elders defiant against Taliban
Tribal elders in a Pakistani village where a suicide car bomber killed nearly 100 people insisted Saturday that residents will keep defying the Taliban, even as the bloodshed laid bare the risks facing the citizens' militias that make up a key piece of Pakistan's arsenal against extremism.
The New Year's Day attack on the northwest village of Shah Hasan Khel was one of the deadliest in a surge of bombings that has killed more than 600 across Pakistan since October.
Police believe the attacker meant to detonate his 250 kilograms of explosives at a meeting of tribesmen who supervise an anti-Taliban militia. Instead, the blast went off at a nearby outdoor volleyball court, killing at least 96 people.
The explosion levelled about three dozen mud-brick homes and covered the village with dust, smoke and the smell of burning flesh. On Saturday, numerous homes received visitors offering condolences and funeral prayers were held.
Many of the residents in the village of 5,000, which lies near Pakistan's militant-filled tribal belt, were too scared to name any possible culprits, but others were defiant.
"The people are in severe grief and fear — it is a demoralizing thing," said Raham Dil Khan, a rifle-toting, 70-something member of the tribal council.
"We want the government to provide security, but one thing is very clear: The committee will stand against every type of terrorism and despite this great loss we will continue our work."
The Canadian government spoke out against the attack in a statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon on Saturday.
"Canada strongly condemns this cowardly attack on the people of Pakistan. We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those killed and wish a speedy recovery to the injured.
"That many of the victims were innocent civilians enjoying a sporting event makes this attack even more contemptible."
The minister also said Ottawa would continue to work with the government of Pakistan in the fight against violent extremist groups.