A car packed with explosives exploded on Tuesday as it sped through a crowded market in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Paktika. At least 89 people were killed in one of the most violent attacks in the country in a year, officials said.
The explosion took place not far from the porous border with Pakistan’s North Waziristan Agency, where the military has been attacking hideouts of the Taliban over the past few weeks, prompting militants to retreat towards Afghanistan.
“The number of victims may increase,” said General Zahir Azimi, a defence ministry spokesman. The attack comes at an uneasy time in Afghanistan as the country recounts votes from a disputed presidential election which the Taliban have vowed to disrupt. But the Taliban have distanced themselves from Tuesday’s attack.
The movement’s leaders have ordered militants not to target civilians. “The truth behind this attack will become clear after an investigation, but we clearly announce that it was not done by the Mujahedeen of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement. “Such attacks do not bring any benefit to the Mujahedeen.”
A local deputy police chief, Nissar Ahmad Abdulrahimzai, said the police had been tipped about the car and were chasing it when it exploded.
“The explosion was so big it destroyed many shops. Dozens of people are trapped under the roofs,” district governor Mohammad Raza Kharoti revealed. The death toll and number of people injured is likely to rise, he said.
Meanwhile, a remote control bomb concealed by a roadside in Kabul killed two employees of President Hamid Karzai’s media office and wounded five, police said. The Taliban have claimed responsibility.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2014.
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