PARACHINAR - A suicide motorbike bomber detonated his explosive vest outside a mosque at a market Friday in Kurram tribal region, killing at least 26 people.

The bomber struck outside the mosque in a busy market after Friday prayers in the latest attack by militants. The casualties occurred after “a suicide bomber on a motorcycle blew himself up in a crowded market,” regional administrator Sahibzada Mohammad Anees said 54 others were wounded in the attack, 10 of them critically.

Residents said the bombing destroyed at least eight shops in the city’s crowded bazaar.

Telephone links broke down after the attack and news of the elevated death toll was slow to arrive via radio, Anees said.

Officials had earlier said eight people died in the blast, which struck as locals visited a special Friday market.

Soon after the incident security personnel rushed to the blast scene and cordoned off the area. Rescue workers shifted the injured to Agency Headquarters Hospital Parachinar.

Agencies add: Three more people were killed when police shot at protesters from the Shia community after the bombing in Parachinar, an official said. A curfew was imposed in the town.

“A curfew has been imposed in the area after some people tried to hold a demonstration. Security forces have sealed the area,” Anees said. Fazal Saeed, leader of a breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the latest attack in Kurram.

“We have targeted the Shia community of Parachinar because they were involved in activities against us,” he told a foreign news agency by telephone from an undisclosed location.

“We sent the suicide bomber following attacks on Sunni Muslims by the Shia tribes in the area,” Fazal Saeed said, claiming to be the leader of the so-called Tehreek-e-Taliban Islami.

“We caught a man yesterday who was planting a bomb at a petrol station owned by a Sunni. We did it in response,” he added.

“We also warn the political administration of Parachinar to stop siding with the Shia community in all our disputes.”

Saeed was part of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) but broke away last year after disputes with the umbrella militant group’s leadership.

He is said to have close ties with the Haqqani militant group, one of the most feared factions of the Afghan Taliban.

They continue to have strongholds in the region despite a series of military operations in the last few years.

Pakistan Army and air force have been conducting operations against militant groups in Kurram since the beginning of the year. Dozens have been killed in fierce fighting this month.

It was the deadliest attack in Pakistan since a remote-controlled bomb blast killed at least 35 people in the Khyber tribal district on January 10.

Meanwhile, a man was killed and three others sustained injuries on Friday when miscreants hurled a hand grenade into a house in Dogar area of Central Kurram Agency.

Sources said that miscreants hurled a hand grenade on the house of Syed Wali in Dogar area. The grenade exploded with deafening sound, claiming the life of a man and inflicted injuries on three others.

Security forces reached the spot and started the rescue activities. The injured were shifted to hospital in Sadda.

Security forces cordoned off the area and started search to nab the culprits.