Turi and Bangash shopkeepers were preparing to break their fast in downtown Parachinar, headquarters of Kurram Agency. Little did they know, however, that it would be the last roza for many of them. Two suicide bombings, hardly a minute apart, tore through two busy marketplaces, killing at least 48 people and injuring nearly 200 more.
A little-known militant group, Ansarul Mujahideen, claimed responsibility for the deadly bombings in Parachinar which has been the hotbed of sectarian violence for years. Most of the victims of Friday’s blasts belonged to either Turi or Bangash tribes, who are Shias by sect.
According to witnesses, one bomber riding a motorcycle struck on Shingak Road near the main square in Parachinar Bazaar around 6:05pm. A minute later, the second bomber, who was also riding a two-wheeler, unleashed carnage on School Road.
The political agent of Kurram Agency, Riaz Mehsud, confirmed the fatalities and the nature of the blasts. “Initial investigations suggest both were suicide attacks,” he told journalists.
He added that the administration had stepped up security at mosques and Imambargahs across the city following intelligence reports that terrorists could target Friday prayers. The terrorists struck at the marketplace after failing to target Friday congregations, he added.
The medical superintendent at the Agency Headquarters Hospital, Dr Sabir Hussain, said that they received 40 bodies and 185 injured – eight of whom later died of their wounds.
“Most of the bodies were mutilated,” he said, adding that they have referred some of the injured to the District Headquarters Hospital, Hangu, Divisional Hospital and Combined Military Hospital in Kohat and to hospitals in Peshawar. He feared the death toll could go up as some of the injured had life-threatening wounds.
Witnesses said that the markets were packed with shoppers and that handcarts were sent flying after the blasts, which also damaged several shops and vehicles.
Syed Jamal Shah, who visited the twin bombing sites, said that around eight shops, several motorcycles and two four-wheelers were destroyed in the Shingak Road blast, while around 15 shops, three motorcycles and six four-wheelers were destroyed in the attack on School Road.
“The blasts took place when people were shopping for Iftar. Blood and pieces of human flesh were scattered all around,” he told The Express Tribune. Syed Wajid Ali, a security guard at Parachinar Press Club, said that the blasts took place minutes after he sent his two brothers to the market to buy some food for Iftar. “Ten minutes later, a huge explosion rocked the market and dust and thick smoke covered the scene,” he added.
“I rushed to inquire about my brothers. Tribesmen at the site told me that they were injured and shifted to hospital,” he said. “But when I reached the hospital I saw my brothers lying on the floor, lifeless.”
A deafening silence descended on the entire Parachinar town after the explosions as most of worried tribesmen rushed to hospitals to find out about the victims and help their injured fellow tribesmen.
At the Agency Headquarters Hospital, some angry tribesmen hit out at the political administration for the poor security in the city. These blasts have exposed the tall claims of the security forces and political administration who say that normalcy has been restored to the region.
Speaking to journalists by phone from an undisclosed location, a purported spokesman for Ansarul Mujahideen, Abu Baseer, claimed responsibility for the twin attacks. He warned of more attacks on the Shia community in future.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor Engineer Shaukatullah condemned the explosions and announced Rs300,000 in compensation for the families each of the deceased and Rs100,000 for the wounded survivors.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2013.