A bomb explosion targeting pro-government tribesmen killed 26 people and wounded dozens more at a crowded bus terminal in the Landi Kotal sub-division of Khyber Agency on Saturday.
“The bomb was planted in a pick-up truck parked near the Zakhakhel bus stand in Landi Kotal Bazaar,” said Khalid Kundi, the assistant political agent for the region.
The blast appeared to have been aimed at members of Zakhakhel tribe, who have formed a militia to fight alongside security forces against powerful local warlord Mangal Bagh Afridi, he added.
The banned Lashkar-e-Islam extremist group, which Mangal Bagh leads, was virtually ruling the neighbouring Bara sub-division of Khyber Agency until 2009 when paramilitary troops routed his fighters from the region. However, the notorious warlord and hundreds of his loyalists are still holed up in their last bastion – the Tirah Valley.
Officials said that several shops were damaged and destroyed in the blast, which also destroyed vehicles parked at the terminal.
Khyber Agency’s Political Agent Mutahir Zeb confirmed the death toll. He said that there were 18 bodies at the Landi Kotal Hospital while an other eight victims died while being taken for treatment to Peshawar. The dead included three children aged nine, 10 and 12, he added.
Most of the victims were shopkeepers, according to Kundi.
In all, 62 people were wounded in the explosion, said Dr Azam Wazir, the medical superintendent of Landi Kotal Hospital. Of them, 32 were shifted to Hyatabad Medical Complex (HMC) and another eight, including four children, were ferried to Lady Reading Hospital.
Shopkeeper Noormat Khan said he narrowly survived the explosion. “The bomb was planted in a non-customs paid vehicle which was parked in front of my shop,” Khan told The Express Tribune from his bed in the HMC.
“Luckily, I was in my brother’s shop. As soon as I stepped out, a huge explosion rocked the entire bus stand,” Khan added. “I lost consciousness – and when I regained consciousness, I found myself on this hospital bed.”
An official of the Khyber Khasadar Force, a sort of tribal police, said he was returning home from duty when the blast went off. “I was waiting at the terminal to catch a bus when the blast occurred,” said Gul Khan, who also sustained shrapnel wounds in the incident.
Motor mechanic Sajidullah Khan, who was wounded in the leg, forearms and face, told AFP: “I was checking a car when I heard a huge blast nearby. I knew nothing afterwards and came to in the hospital.”
Shakoor Jan, an electrician, said he was sitting in his shop when the blast rocked the whole area. “There was fire in several shops,” he said.
The banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said they were not behind the attack. Abdullah Azaam Brigade, the TTP chapter in Khyber tasked with attacking Nato supply vehicles, also denied involvement in the deadly bombing.
Lashkar-e-Islam has not claimed responsibility either, but analysts say the attack carries the signature of the group which has carried out similar attacks in the past. (With additional input from AFP)
Published In The Express Tribune, June 17th, 2012.
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