Suicide car bomb attack kills 33 in Pakistan


Islamabad : A suicide blast ripped through a crowded market Friday in Pakistan’s conflict-torn North West Frontier Province, killing at least 33 people and injuring dozens more, police said.

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The powerful explosion took place in Ustarzai, a small Shia Muslim-dominated village on the fringes of the garrison town of Kohat, 60 km south of the provincial capital, Peshawar.

Following the attack, Pakistani security forces targeted the militants’ positions and killing 13 rebels.

The suicide bombing destroyed 25 shops and a two-story hotel. The rescue workers sifted through the rubble for hours to recover the bodies and survivors.

Kohat police spokesman Fazal Naeem confirmed that 33 people died and said 60 more had been taken to hospitals.

“The market was packed with the people doing shopping for Eidal Fitr (Muslim Festival that ends fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan),” Naeem told DPA.

According to Naeem the casualty count was also so high because the blast site was near a busy junction of roads leading to other towns.

“The bomber detonated his explosives-laden, white-coloured car in the middle of the market,” said another police officer, Ali Hassan.

Eight vehicles were also mangled by the force of the blast, he said.

An official from the private Edhi Foundation Ambulance Service claimed their volunteers had moved 38 bodies to the hospitals.

Most of those killed were Shia Muslims. After the blast, an angry crowd threw stones at police and blocked roads with burning tyres near the scene of the attack.

A purported spokesman of the Sunni extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Alalmi (LJA) claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.

The spokesman, who identified himself as Usman Haider, told local reporters in Kohat that the strike was carried out to avenge the murder of its leader Maulana Amin.

The LJA is allied with Taliban militants based in Pakistan’s restive tribal region, which is located close to Kohat district.

The two groups cooperated in carrying out several attacks on Shia mosques and businesses in Kohat and nearby districts.

The Taliban last year briefly seized a strategic tunnel outside the town on the Indus Highway that connects North West Frontier Province with central Pakistan and is used to transport NATO supplies from the southern port city of Karachi to landlocked Afghanistan.

The interior ministry said early this week that the Taliban had intensified attacks across the country to revenge the death of their chief Baitullah Mehsud in a US drone attack last month.

The Taliban have chosen Hakimullah Mehsud, who is from the same tribe, as his successor. Hakimullah was formerly associated with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and is believed to have ordered dozens of brutal attacks on Shia Muslims.