PESHAWAR: At least 30 people were killed and dozens wounded in a remote-controlled bomb attack, targeting members of a tribal militia, in a busy market in the Jamrud sub-division of the Khyber tribal region.
It came as part of a string of attacks in the tribal belt in the aftermath of security forces killing senior members of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. Though the TTP claimed responsibility for earlier attacks, the group disowned Tuesday’s bombing at Jamrud Bazaar.
A pickup truck parked at a filling station close to a bus stand contained hundreds of kilogrammes of explosives mixed with rockets and mortar shells. The resulting blast was immense, an official from the bomb disposal unit told The Express Tribune.
Sources said that the explosion took place at a time when members of a tribal militia, Zakhakhel Qaumi Lashkar to be more precise, were boarding a vehicle. According to Assistant Political Agent Muhammad Jameel, the bus stop and fuelling station were frequently used by Zakhakhel tribesmen. However, he added that “there were innocent people who wanted peace that were killed.”
The impact of the blast left the nearby buildings in tatters and several vehicles damaged. An eyewitness said that he heard a huge explosion followed by thick pall of smoke. “It was a doomsday scenario. Blood-stained human limbs were scattered everywhere – and the injured were crying for help,” Riaz Khan told The Express Tribune at the site of the blast.
Another passerby, Waheedullah, said that he was at least 50 yards from the blast site. “My vehicle moved off its course, and when I turned back there were people stuck under the debris of the vehicles that were on fire.”
The burnt out wreckage of at least cars littered the scene next to the shattered glass of at least nine destroyed shopfronts. Trails of blood could be seen around the site of the blast, which had left a large crater in the road.
Authorities have confirmed the casualties. “The total number of deaths is 30 while 72 people were wounded,” Shakeel Khan Umarzai, Assistant Political Agent for Jamrud, told The Express Tribune. Authorities also confirmed that the dead include four members of the local Khasadar Force.
The injured were ferried to the Hayatabad Medical Complex and Khyber Teaching Hospital and Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar. Some of them are said to be in a critical condition. The Political Agent of Khyber Agency, Mutahir Zeb, told the media that it was not clear who could be the possible target, while terming the attack a reprisal from militants after a successful operation by security forces.
But residents suggested that the target was obviously Zakhakhel tribesmen who have raised a militia against Lashkar-e-Islam extremist group, led by its notorious commander Mangal Bagh Afridi.
“We left our villages in Tirah Valley where they have unleashed a reign of terror. But even in Jamrud and in Peshawar we are not safe from these ruthless killers,” Abdullah, who belongs to Zakhakhel tribe, told The Express Tribune referring to LeI fighters.
A person claiming to be the spokesperson for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Tariq Group, whose influence is widely spread throughout the agency, called journalists and said the group had nothing to do with the attack. TTP spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan also disowned the attack in an email sent to the media.
In a related incident, militants set off bombs in a mobile phone market and a state-run school in the neighbouring Landikotal subdivision. Sources said that the market and the school were targeted in the Bazaar Zakhakhel area. Four people were wounded in both incidents but doctors said their wounds were not life threatening.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2012.