An uneasy peace in an area beset by violent sectarianism was short-lived. Parachinar bleeds again.
At least 31 people were killed and 36 others were injured when a suicide bomber attacked a crowded market in Kurram Agency on Friday, in the deadliest attack for a month, officials said.
The bomb exploded near an imambargah as the main Friday prayers took place in Parachinar, the headquarters of Kurram Agency.
But that was not the extent of the tragedy.
According to locals, two people were killed when security forces shot at protesters from the Shia community after the bombing.
A splinter group that broke away from the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that the “Toori (Shia) tribe were involved in activities against us”.
The blast casts a shadow over the fate of a fragile peace deal, which was concluded recently in the restive agency, plagued by sectarian violence.
Officials said that the blast took place in the busy Khar Bazaar, also known as Kurma Bazaar, when the young suicide bomber rushed towards the crowd and detonated the explosives strapped to his body.
“The target of the bomber was the Imambargah; however, he did not succeed in attacking that,” Sajid Hussain Toori, a lawmaker from the region, told The Express Tribune.
The blast took place at around 1:45 pm in the market, which is one of the busiest spots in Parachinar.
Eyewitnesses described the attacker as a young man in his mid-twenties. They further said that it was a powerful blast and was heard in far off areas.
Around 20 people were killed on the spot, while six others succumbed to injuries at the hospital. Independent sources put the number of injured at over 60.
Locals said that security forces, who rushed to the scene soon after the blast, opened fire to control the angry crowd, resulting in the death of two people and injuries to 28 others.
However, MNA Sajid Hussain said that four people were killed in the incident and added that “everyone has their own way of protesting”.
A senior administration official told The Express Tribune avoided commenting on deaths caused by firing from the security forces, but conceded that at least seven people were injured in the baton charge and firing to control the protestors.
Meanwhile, speaking from an undisclosed location, Leader of Tehreek-e-Taliban Islami Fazal Saeed Haqqani told AFP by telephone that, “We had warned the political administration previously not to side with Tooris.”
A 12-year-old unidentified child was also killed in the blast.
Anjuman-e-Hussania Parachinar has announced three days of mourning, while also asking people to remain peaceful.
Sajid Hussain Toori, one of the key people behind the peace deal in Kurram, said that the people of the region were peaceful, and added that they would do their best to maintain the peace treaty.
Friday’s blast was the deadliest attack in the country since a remote-controlled bomb blast killed at least 35 people in Khyber Agency on January 10.
With additional input from Agencies
Published in The Express Tribune, February 18th, 2012.