KACHA PUKA, Pakistan – Two burqa-clad suicide bombers attacked people who had fled a Pakistani offensive against the Taliban close to the Afghan border, killing 41 as they lined up Saturday to register for food and other relief supplies.

The victims were among around 200,000 people to have left Orakzai since the end of last year, when the Pakistan army began offensive ground and air operations against militants based in the remote, tribally administered region.

The registration point in Kohat region was managed by the local administration, but sometimes used by foreign humanitarian groups, including the World Food Program, to deliver aid. There was no claim of responsibility, which is not unusual when bomb attacks kill ordinary Pakistani citizens.

The United Nations said it was temporarily suspending work helping displaced people in Kohat and neighboring Hangu as a result of the attack.

Al-Qaida and Taliban militants based in the northwest have carried out near-daily attacks over the last 18 months in Pakistan, seeking to overthrow its Western-allied government and stop it from fighting them. The blasts have killed several thousand people, but not deterred the army.

The registration point — essentially a small building in a dusty field — may have been hit to persuade people not to have any contact with the local administration or foreign relief groups.

The bombers were disguised in burqas, the all-encompassing veil worn by conservative Muslim women in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, allowing them to get close to the building without arousing suspicion, said police officer Abdullah Khan.

They struck within minutes of each other, with the second blast the bigger and more deadly.

Government official Dilawar Khan Bangash said 41 people were killed and 62 were wounded in the attack.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani army admitted that civilians were killed in an airstrike last Saturday in the northwest that supposedly targeted militants.

The army did not say how many had died, but apologized — something that could help reduce anger among local tribes, whose support it needs to defeat the militants.


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