A massive car bomb ripped through a busy market in the Jamrud subdivision of Khyber Agency on Monday, killing at least 21 people, including women and children, and injuring dozens more.
The white car, rigged with explosives, was set off by a remote control in the middle of Jamrud Bazaar, Assistant Political Agent Jehangir Azam Wazir confirmed to The Express Tribune.
“At least 21 people, among them women and children, were killed and 64 others were wounded,” Wazir said. “Some of the bodies were mutilated beyond recognition,” he added. “Nine of the injured are said to be in critical condition.”
According to Agency Surgeon Dr Sameen Jan Shinwari, most of the injured were shifted to the Civil Hospital, Jamrud, while those with critical wounds were referred to hospitals in nearby Peshawar.
“Four women were among the dead and they were all Afghans. These women were coming from the border in a hired car, which was destroyed. These women’s Afghan passports were found in a bag,” said Shinwari.
He said a five-year-old Afghan girl accompanying the women and two six-year-old Pakistani boys were also among those killed. The bodies of the Afghan victims were collected by officials from the Afghan Consulate in Peshawar.
The Express Tribune correspondent saw pools of blood and charred bodies at the roadside. Clothes, children’s shoes and Burqas littered the site. Officials confirmed that at least 15 vehicles and 10 shops were destroyed in the blast.
Witnesses spoke of harrowing scenes after the explosion. “The white car exploded right in front of my shop. Thick, black smoke and dust enveloped the bazaar soon after,” shopkeeper Syed Rehman told The Express Tribune.
“Another car standing nearby also caught fire, killing all five people inside – all women and children,” he added. “They appeared to be Afghan nationals.”
Driver Taj Muhammad, 40, said he was entering Jamrud when he heard the explosion and saw a ball of fire.
“I rushed to the site and saw people engulfed by flames. There were pieces of human flesh and blood everywhere. I saw a little child who was injured and crying. I took this boy to hospital,” he told AFP.
“When I picked up the injured boy he looked like my son and I was really sad.”
Another witness said it was the third major blast in the Zakakhel bazaar. “Sixty-five people were killed and over 100 injured in two earlier blasts on April 29 and January 10,” said the witness, Muzamil Khan.
An official of the Bomb Disposal Squad from Khyber Rifles said the car was packed with over 20 kilogrammes of explosives.
Political Agent Mutahir Zeb played down the idea that the government office was the intended target, but said authorities were still investigating. “We are still ascertaining what procedure exactly was used to blow up the vehicle,” he said.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast.
The bomb attack came two days after a brazen Taliban attack on Peshawar airport and a day after militants, who had fled the airport attack, were killed in an operation by police and army commandos in a village near Peshawar. (With additional input from AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2012.