PESHAWAR: Eight people were killed and 30 others sustained injuries in a powerful car bomb that targeted a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) vehicle in the crowded Scheme Chowk Bazaar on the Kohat Road on Wednesday afternoon. Majority of those killed in the blast were working in the nearby shops and auto-workshops.
“Eight people were killed and four of the injured are in critical condition,” Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Coordination Peshawar, Umar Riaz told The News. However, some TV channels and other media outlets put the death toll at 10 in the explosion at the busy market located five kilometres south of the city on the Kohat Road. The place is not far from the Badaber Camp of the PAF in Surizai village on the Inqilab Road.
Officials said the target of the blast seemed to be a van of the PAF transporting employees to their homes from office. The three injured PAF employees were taken to the Combined Military Hospital in Peshawar Cantonment.
A spokesman of the PAF said that the condition of three civil employees, who sustained minor wounds in a deadly explosion, was stable and they were being treated.The outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the bomb attack.
One of its spokesmen, Mohammad, who normally speaks on behalf of the TTP chapter in Darra Adamkhel, phoned reporters in Kohat from an unknown place to claim that the bombing was organised in retaliation to the aerial bombardment of a Madrassa by the military in Orakzai Agency in which many children were allegedly killed.
Ten shops, some nearby buildings and three vehicles were damaged in the blast. Majority of those killed in the blast were working in the nearby shops and auto-workshops. The injured included some women and children who were shifted to the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) where a state of emergency was declared. The victims were taken to the hospital in private cars and vans.
Some of those killed in the blast were identified as Arsala Khan, Bilal, Izzatullah, Qazi Sarfaraz, Asghar, Mehfooz and a 7th grade student Younus. One of the bodies could not be identified.
Many of those wounded included shopkeepers, their assistants and some passengers of a van and passers-by.The blast caused panic in the market as a majority of the victims were local people. Relatives and friends of those killed were seen crying after it was confirmed that their loved ones were no more in this world.
An eyewitness said some people became suspicious when an unidentified man parked a car on the roadside in the bazaar, but others felt it wasn’t something unusual. After the blast, the main Kohat Road remained blocked for almost an hour and people had to use the Canal Road to reach Peshawar city as the police had cordoned off the area. Rescue workers were seen helping the wounded to reach the hospital.
The head of the bomb disposal unit (BDU), Shafqat Malik, estimated around 50 to 60 kilogrammes of explosives were used in the attack. He said initial investigation showed that the explosives were planted in a car that was parked on the roadside. He added it was set off through a remote-controlled device.
It was learnt that mortar shells were put into the explosives to cause maximum harm. A case was registered against unknown sponsors of the blast at the Badaber Police Station. There were also reports about the detention of 15 suspects in the area after the bombing.
Governor Masood Kausar and Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti both condemned the blast and termed the incident a cowardly act.
APP adds from Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Rehman Malik condemned the blast, which killed eight people. In their separate statements, they expressed sympathy with the bereaved families and prayed for the early recovery of the injured, as well as eternal peace for the departed souls.