Bajaur Agency was once again gripped by violence as militants targeted the pro-government Salarzai tribe on Thursday when an explosives-laden vehicle was detonated in the Pashat market area killing nine civilians and injuring 23 more.
Jehangir Azam Wazir, the Assistant Political Agent Khar, said that the blast occurred around 9am, when a bomb planted in a pick-up truck exploded in the main bazaar of Pashat, about 30 km north of the Agency headquarters.
Four vehicles and shops in the vicinity of the attack were also destroyed in the high-intensity blast which happened during the early morning hours, Wazir added.
Ajmal Khan, a tribesman and eyewitness of the blast, told The Express Tribune that a double-cabin pick-up truck, in which the explosives were attached, had been parked in the market beforehand.
He identified the dead as Gulfaraz, Nizamuddin, Asfandiyar, Taleem Khan,Waheedullah, Lais Khan, two children Hina and Reshma.
The dead and the injured were shifted to Agency Headquarters (AHQ) Hospital immediately after the blast and the area was cordoned off by security officials.
Medical Superintendent of AHQ, Muhammad Riaz, told The Express Tribune that the dead included two children, adding that “four critically injured civilians were referred to the Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar.”
Salarzai sources revealed that the market was owned by Shahabuddin Khan, a local leader of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) considered to be pro-government.
Talking to The Express Tribune a tribal elder, wishing not to be named, revealed that Shahabuddin’s family were receiving constant threats from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) “who were refused sanctuary for a training camp by the family”.
The attack, for which no group has claimed responsibility so far, is in continuation of similar attempts by the Taliban to violently target the Salarzai tribe for their continuing fight against militants and support for government-run military operations in the agency.
In May this year, 24 tribesmen were killed in a similar blast in Khar after which cross-border attacks by militants based in Afghanistan’s bordering Kunar province have made the Agency a target for militant elements.
The Bajaur Agency, where military operations were conducted in 2008 and 2009, has been repeatedly declared clear of militants by the authorities. However, attacks on pro-government militias have continued unabated in the area.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2012.