PESHAWAR: A powerful bomb ripped through a bus in suburban Peshawar, killing 19 people, including six women, and injuring nearly three dozen.
The bus was rented by the government to ferry employees of the Civil Secretariat belonging to the neighbouring Charsadda district to and from Peshawar.
“Nearly 35 people had boarded the bus at its terminal in Peshawar Saddar,” Safiullah Khan, the superintendent of police (rural), told The Express Tribune.
“Some civilians also boarded the bus near Bacha Khan Chowk,” he added, referring to a roundabout in Peshawar. In all, 64 people were on board.
SP Shah said the blast occurred inside the bus, suggesting the bomb was planted on the four-wheeler.
His account was corroborated by the provincial information minister. “The bomb was planted under the bus,” Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told reporters.
It was a homemade explosive device weighing around 10 kilogrammes, according to the head of the Bomb Disposal Squad.
The bus was en route to Charsadda and when it entered Gul Bela village, in the jurisdiction of the Daudzai police station around Friday noon, a powerful blast tore off its back end, officials said.
The blast also destroyed the main gates of several houses dotting both sides of the road, though there was no casualty there. Muhammadullah, 48, a police official on the bus, said there was a deafening sound.
“Even as smoke filled the bus we could feel pieces of human flesh hitting our bodies,” Muhammadullah told AFP while being treated for head and shoulder injuries at Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital (LRH).
Arsalan, a junior clerk in the provincial auditor general’s office, said he remembered asking the driver to stop at a mosque on the road for Juma prayers just before the explosion took place.
“I don’t remember what happened next because I fainted and (found myself) in a hospital bed,” said Arsalan, also with head and neck injuries.
Eyewitnesses recalled gory scenes at the site. “Around 12.45pm I was going to the local mosque to offer Friday prayers. A bus cruised past me and seconds later I heard an earsplitting explosion,” Mubarrak Shah told The Express Tribune.
“I saw eight mutilated bodies lying on both sides of the bus,” he recalled.
Local residents complained about the late response of police to the incident. “Despite repeated telephone calls, police came in around 40 minutes after the blast,” Farhad, a local taxi driver, told The Express Tribune.
Villagers shuttled the casualties to hospitals in Charsadda and Peshawar in private vehicles on a self-help basis.
Eleven dead – six women, four men and a two-year-old girl – were received at the LRH, according to Dr Shiraz, the head of the casualty ward. Another 15 people were being treated for their wounds.
Among the women victims were a schoolteacher, a staff nurse and a midwife who worked at the LRH.
Eighteen casualties – eight dead and 20 injured – were shifted to the district headquarters hospital in Charsadda.
President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani condemned the terrorist attack and expressed sorrow over the loss of lives. The two leaders directed best possible treatment for the injured.
Friday’s bombing was the deadliest attack in months on Peshawar, which has long been a flashpoint for a Taliban insurgency.
The attack came a day after a remote-controlled explosion killed at least 14 people outside a madrassa in the Balochistan capital.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AGENCIES)
Published in The Express Tribune, June 9th, 2012.
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