At least 10 people were killed, most of them women and children, and 26 wounded when a car bomb ripped through a packed market near a police station on Wednesday – the fifth attack in Peshawar in less than a week.
The bomb devastated shops and vehicles at the congested Tela Band Road area on the outskirts of the provincial capital, police said.
They said that the target was the Badabher police station, a stone’s throw from the blast site. “It was a timed device. The target was police. He (the attacker) parked the car here due to the traffic congestion,” city police chief Liaqat Ali Khan told reporters.
“The bomb was fitted to the CNG kit of the car. And artillery shells were also used in the explosion to maximise the damage,” he added. Ijaz Khan, another senior police official, added that 40-50 kilogrammes of explosives were used.
Witnesses said they heard a deafening boom and soon afterwards dust and smoke enveloped the scene. “It was a huge blast. I saw people lying all around. Some were dead, others were crying for help,” Wakil, a witness told The Express Tribune.
The Rescue 1122 confirmed at least 10 fatalities, among them a woman and four children. Another 26 people, including a woman and five children, were injured.
Asmara Bibi, a housewife, was sitting in the back of a Datsun pick-up en route to a nearby village to visit relatives when the bomb exploded.
“A wave of flames hit me. It was so powerful, I thought I was in a furnace. My burqa also caught fire and I threw it away,” she said.
“My kids were also burnt and I cried for them. After that I don’t remember what happened. When I came round in the hospital, my relatives told me they’re injured but safe.”
Medics at Peshawar’s main Lady Reading Hospital said they had received nine dead, including three children and one woman. “Children and women are among the injured as well,” Abdul Hamid Afridi, a senior staff member at the hospital told AFP.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Senior Minister Bashir Bilour said the target was the nearby police station. “If they (militants) want to fight the US and Nato troops, they should go to Afghanistan. Why are they killing innocent people in Peshawar,” a visibly irritated Bilour told the media.
Contrary to Bilour, provincial government’s spokesperson Mian Iftikhar Hussain tried to put up a bold face. “The besieged militants in Mohmand Agency are asking their accomplices to carry out attacks in Peshawar to ease pressure there,” he said.
Hussain said the militants were frustrated by successful operations of the security forces in Mohmand.
It was the fifth terror attack in and around Peshawar in less than a week. On Monday, a senior police official and five others were killed in twin attacks. And on Saturday, a double truck bombing killed four people at the Kohat tunnel.
Additional input from AFP
Published in The Express Tribune, February 3rd, 2011.