A suicide attack in the
tribal areas of Pakistan killed 36 people last month.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the fatal attack at the mosque, during Friday prayer.
Asia Calling’s Mudassar Shah recently visited the area and found a community in mourning – but also resilient in the face of terror.
Israr Khan, 12, is walking fast to reach the mosque for Friday prayer.
The young children here in Paye Khan village don’t always go to Friday prayer.
But since the blast last month, Israr has come to the mosque every week.
“My mother asks me to take shower for Friday prayer and gives me new clothes,” Israr explained.
“She also tells me to be brave, not to be frightened of the militants. She also says Koranic verses for my protection.”
Two of Israr’s brothers were killed in the attack, and four of his cousins.
Israr doesn’t go to school because he works with his father in the fields, planting and harvesting vegetables.
But Friday is his day off and Israr says he has to go to mosque now – to show he isn’t scared.
“We know the militants want to make us afraid, so I go to the same mosque to challenge them,” he says.
Israr reaches the mosque well before prayer time and joins the all male-gathering.
Haji Gul Pur, 53, is at the mosque too. And he was here when a suicide bomber attacked this very mosque just a few weeks ago.
As he recalls what happens, other men here gather around to listen.
“I heard him saying aloud ‘Allah O Akbar’ followed by a big bang,” Gul Pur tells the crowd.
“There was dust everywhere and I found dead bodies all around when I went out onto the veranda. Soon after, I found out the suicide bomber had been stopped by two strong young men from entering the mosque, which reduced the death toll.”
Among those killed were Pur’s four nephews.
But Pur says his community will never surrender to terror.
“We were against terrorists, we are against them and will be against them and will stand for the security of our area, and even the women will stand against terrorists if they kill the men. We will never ever surrender to them at any cost. We will never allow them on our soil and land,” Pur declared.
Both Taliban and extremists connected to the so-called Islamic State (IS) operate in the tribal areas, the northern area of Pakistan that borders Afghanistan.
The Pakistani military has worked to crackdown on militancy in the area and they have had some success. But attacks do still occur.
Residents in Paye Khan village have since returned to their daily routines, although mourning.
Ranra Khan, a 48-year-old farmer is still trying to make sense of the attack.
“Most of the 36 people killed were younger than 19, except one person who was 65. The terrorists killed our children to destroy our future. Terrorists are extremely cruel,” Ranra Khan says.
Malak Sawab Khan is a village elder. Militants, he says, have sent him death threats but he had this to say in response.
“Our morale is high and our message is loud and clear for the terrorists, that we will never surrender to them. We stand united against terrorists and will support each other against them.”
According to the Pakistani military, the number of terrorist attacks in the country has dropped from 128 in 2013 to 74 last year.