A car bomb exploded on a crowded street in northwestern Pakistan yesterday, killing 37 people in the third blast to hit the troubled city of Peshawar in a week, officials said.
The latest explosion appeared to have been a bomb planted in a parked car and detonated by remote control, police officer Zahid Khan said.
It went off in a crowded market that is the city’s oldest bazaar near a mosque and a police station, officials said.
The blast damaged the mosque and nearby shops and caused many vehicles to go up in flames, police officer Nawaz Khan said.
A senior official at Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital, Arshad Javaid, confirmed the new toll and said at least 103 people were injured. He said the dead included two women and six children aged five to nine.
Such attacks in the city, which is the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, have claimed more than 130 lives since Sunday last week, when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a crowd of worshipers at a church, killing 85 people.
On Friday, 19 people died when a bomb planted on a bus carrying government employees home for the weekend exploded in Peshawar’s outskirts.
The bomb that went off yesterday was about 300m from the All Saints Church, which was the scene of last Sunday’s carnage.
Bookshop owner Nazar Ali, had just opened his shop when the bomb went off.
“It was a huge blast that was followed by fire in vehicles. Thick black smoke covered the air and splinters spread all over. I saw people lying dead and bleeding all over,” he said.
Many of the old buildings used in the historic Qissa Khawani market are constructed from wood, which easily caught on fire when the bomb went off, senior police officer Shafqat Malik said.
Another man was shopping for breakfast when the bomb exploded.
“Suddenly there was a huge bang and I fell on the ground,” said Adnan Hussain, speaking from Lady Reading Hospital where the wounded were taken. “My cousin Rizwan is dead and the other is critical.”
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the blame is likely to fall on the Pakistani Taliban and its affiliates.
The militant group has been battling troops in northwestern Pakistan; their aim is to overthrow the government and establish a hardline Islamic state.
The new government of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said it would like to negotiate with the militants to end the bloodshed, but so far those efforts have made little progress and attacks like yesterday’s have continued.
On Saturday, a spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban criticized Sharif, saying his comments that the militants must lay down their weapons and respect the constitution indicated the new leader is not serious about peace talks. Previously, Sharif had not given preconditions for the talks.
“By telling us that we will have to lay down arms and respect the constitution, the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, showed that he is following the policy of America and its allies,” the spokesman said. “We will hold talks with [the government] only when it gets the real power to take decisions.”
In other developments in northwestern Pakistan yesterday, two missiles from a US drone hit a compound in North Waziristan, killing three militants linked to the Punjab Province branch of the Pakistani Taliban, two intelligence officers said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Additional reporting by AFP