PESHAWAR/JAMRUD: Five people were killed and dozens wounded in two bomb explosions in the volatile north of the country on Tuesday.
The first explosion took place in the upscale University Town neighbourhood of Peshawar. Eyewitnesses say that the bomb was strapped to a motorcycle which was parked in the basement of the multi-storey Azam Tower commercial plaza, situated on Arbab Road.
The blast damaged around 22 shops, including six internet cafes, on the first floor of the building. Some vehicles parked outside were also damaged.
SSP Operations Tahir Ayub confirmed that two people were killed and 28 others wounded in the blast. And medics at the Khyber Teaching Hospital said all but one are in a stable condition.
Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesperson for the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack in a phone call to Peshawar-based journalists from an undisclosed location. Provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said the blast could be in retaliation for the killing of a militant commander by security forces a couple of days back in Khyber Agency. “We have nearly eliminated the militants. A few splinter groups that remain will soon be eliminated,” he told journalists.
However, SSP Ayub said citing preliminary investigations that the internet cafes were the target. He added that the homemade explosive device weighed four to five kilogrammes.
It was the first bomb explosion in Peshawar in 2012 which has whipped up fear among residents. The city had witnessed relative calm for a while before Tuesday’s blast.
The second explosion took place in the Landi Kotal sub-division of the Khyber tribal agency, which borders Peshawar district. Suspected militants detonated a remote-controlled bomb in a busy market, according to government officials.
The Abdullah Azam Brigade, the TTP wing tasked to attack Nato supplies, claimed responsibility for the attack in Bacha Khan Chowk that killed three security personnel and injured nine others.
The bomb, targeting security forces, destroyed two vehicles and damaged several shops. “Three people, among them two security personnel, were killed,” said a local official. The injured, among them two schoolchildren, were rushed to the Landi Kotal Hospital, from where four of them with serious wounds were referred to Peshawar for treatment.
The dead, identified Gulzar and Roza Khan, belonged to Levies and Khasadar forces, respectively.
A spokesperson for Abdullah Azam Brigade said the attack was in response to the killing of their 12 colleagues, including Commander Qari Kamran, in a recent security operation in the region. He warned of more such attacks ‘in the future’.
(WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY UMER FAROOQ IN PESHAWAR)
Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2012.