KHAR, Pakistan (AP) — A teenager blew himself up near a Pakistani market close to the Afghan border Friday, killing 20 people, officials said. The suicide bombing came a day after the U.S. released letters seized from Osama bin Laden's compound that criticized Pakistani militants for killing too many civilians.
Five of the dead in the blast in the northwestern Bajur tribal area were local members of the security forces, including one who had received an award for bravery in fighting Islamist militants, government administrator Abdul Haseeb said. The others were passers-by, including a woman and several schoolchildren.
The suicide bomber, who was believed to be 15 to 16 years old, detonated his explosives as he approached a security checkpoint near the market in the town of Khar, said Haseeb. The attack took place as locals were headed to work or taking their children to school. More than 40 people were wounded, most civilians.
The explosion damaged more than a dozen shops, and rescue officials searched through the debris for anyone trapped inside. The ground outside the market was covered in blood and littered with the shoes of those hit by the attack.
Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan claimed responsibility for the bombing in a telephone call to The Associated Press.
"This is revenge for killing our people," said Ahsan.
Pakistan's branch of the Taliban, which is battling for control of the region, has killed and wounded thousands of people since 2009, many of them civilians in markets or mosques.
On Thursday, the U.S. released 17 letters seized from Osama bin Laden's compound by American commandos after they had killed the al-Qaida leader a year ago. Many of them addressed bombings in which civilians were killed.
Two senior al-Qaida leaders wrote a letter to Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud in December 2010 criticizing the group for carrying out attacks in markets, mosques and other places that kill innocent Muslims. It accused the group of making "clear legal and religious mistakes that might result in a negative deviation from the set path of the jihadists' movement in Pakistan."