It was déjà vu in the most horrific way. Taliban militants had detonated a bomb onboard a Charsadda-bound bus carrying government staff on June 8, 2012. Fourteen passengers had lost their lives in the grisly attack. Over a year later, on the same day [Friday], at the same place and at the same time a near-identical attack took place.
A bomb tore through a passenger bus, carrying mostly government servants, on the edge of Peshawar, killing at least 20 people. Another 43 passengers were also wounded in the blast that happened on Charsadda Road near Gulbela village in the precincts of Daudzai police station.
“It was a home-made, timed device which was planted in some carton at the back of the bus,” said Shafqat Malik, the AIG (Special Branch) and head of the Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS).
The vehicle was reduced to a tangled heap of twisted metal by the force of the blast. It was so powerful that it threw bodies of some victims out of the vehicle and onto the road. Some of the bodies were badly mutilated.
The bus driver, Fayaz, clarified that his vehicle didn’t belong to the Civil Secretariat. However, he admitted that a number of government employees were aboard. The bus was en route to Charsadda from Peshawar’s Bacha Khan Chowk.
“When we reached Gulbela village a loud explosion took place. Moments later, thick, black smoke filled the vehicle. I was dumbfounded, unable to understand what had happened. I lost control of the bus which travelled another 500 metres before screeching to a halt,” he said.
Local residents recalled the grisly scenes at the site. “It was around 12:30pm. We were preparing for Friday prayers when an explosion shook the area,” local contractor Gulzar told The Express Tribune.
“We rushed out of our houses and saw a bus on fire. Blood was splattered all over the road,” he added. “The injured were crying for help.”
Gulzar said that local residents shifted the victims to hospitals in private vehicles. “The police reached the spot 30 minutes later,” he added.
Survivors endorsed the driver’s account. “I was going to my village, Sardaryab. When the bus reached Gulbela suddenly a blast went off at the back of the vehicle. The only thing I heard before losing consciousness was cries of people. “When I came to senses I found myself in the hospital bed,” he told The Express Tribune.
AIG Malik said the explosive device weighed at least 15 kilogrammes. “It is the second time a vehicle carrying Civil Secretariat employees has been targeted in a near-identical fashion,” he said.
The victims were driven to Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital and DHQ Hospital Charsadda. Commissioner Peshawar Sahibzada Anees said the government was devising a new security plan to avert such attacks.
Two roadside shops were also destroyed in the explosion. “A shopkeeper, Zahidullah was sitting in his shop along with five others when the blast occurred. They were all injured and Zahidullah later died from his wounds at the hospital,” said a villager Naimatullah.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 28th, 2013.