Islamabad: At least 53 people were killed and 123 injured when a teenage suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque packed with hundreds of worshippers on the third Friday of the holy fasting month of Ramzan in Pakistan's restive tribal belt, the deadliest attack in the country in three months.
   
The attack, which targeted the Jamia Masjid in Jamrud area of Khyber tribal agency, 25 kms from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province's capital Peshawar, took place as people were leaving after Friday prayers.

Quoting locals and sources from social welfare organsation Edhi Foundation, the Express Tribune reported that 53 bodies had been recovered from the mosque.

About 103 of the 123 injured were taken to hospitals in Jamrud and nearby Peshawar city.

Thirty three people were killed instantly by the powerful blast, officials told the media and described the condition of 20 of the injured as serious.

Witnesses and officials told the media that the attack was carried out by a bomber aged about 15 or 16 years. Over 300 people were present in the mosque at the time of the blast.

A portion of the mosque collapsed and its walls developed large cracks due to the blast.

Local residents dug through the rubble with their hands to pull out the dead and injured. They said some bodies could still be trapped in the debris. Footage on television showed that the walls and ceiling of the mosque were pitted with shrapnel. Part of the ceiling was blackened by the blast and the floor was stained with blood.

A young boy wearing a blue shalwar-kameez broke down and cried as people tried to console him.

No group claimed responsibility for the blast.

Such attacks are usually blamed on the Pakistani Taliban. Several militant groups, including the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Islam, are active in Khyber.

Today's blast was the deadliest in Pakistan since May 13 when two suicide bombers killed 98 people outside a police training centre in a town near Peshawar.

Talking to journalists after visiting the mosque, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said such incidents would continue to occur if the world community did not give up the notion of "good and bad Taliban".

Regional stakeholders, including Pakistan and Afghanistan, should put pressure on the US to bring about "radical changes" in its war on terror, he said.

In a message, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the attack on the mosque and said the "terrorists had proved time and again they bring a bad name to our religion by carrying out such cowardly acts."

He reiterated his government's resolve to root out terrorism.

President Asif Ali Zardari expressed deep shock and described the attack as an "abhorrent act".

He said the government and people are determined to defeat terrorism.

(Agencies)