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Suicide car bomb kills 25 in Pakistan


Islamabad : A suicide bomb blast ripped through a crowded market Friday in Pakistan’s conflict-torn North-West Frontier Province, killing at least 25 people and wounding dozens more, police said.

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

The blast destroyed several shops and a small hotel where several people were believed to be trapped under the debris.

Kohat police spokesman Fazal Naeem confirmed that 25 people died in the suicide car bombing and said 60 more had been taken to hospitals.

Naeem said the casualty count was 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 destroyed in the explosion, he said, and rescue workers and locals were trying to pull victims from the rubble.

An official at the local government hospital said eight bodies and 40 injured had so far been moved to the medical facility. “At least four of the injured are in critical condition,” said medical officer Omar Khan.

About 20 wounded people were moved to private clinics.

Most of those killed were Shiite 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 claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.

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

Kohat borders Pakistan’s restive tribal region, where government forces are carrying out anti-Taliban operations.

The district has also seen rising sectarian violence between majority Sunni and minority Shiite Muslims in recent years. Local extremist Sunni groups are allied with Taliban militants.