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At Least 18 Dead in Pakistan Blast

Posted by tothewire on December 5, 2008

1photo23ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A powerful explosion struck a crowded central bazaar in the chaotic city of Peshawar in Pakistan’s northwest on Friday, killing at least 18 people and injuring around eighty, Pakistani television and news agencies reported on Friday.

The chief of police in Peshawar, Malik Naveed, told a television station that the explosion occurred in the bazaar in Kissa Kahani, or Street of the Storytellers, a crowded area in the center of the city at a time when many people were out shopping for an upcoming festival. He said the explosion, which took place at 7:20 p.m. local time, struck near a Shia mosque, and that he expected the numbers of dead and injured to rise. Pakistani TV estimated the death toll to be as many as 25, and The Associated Press said the number confirmed dead to be at least 18.

According to a Peshawar resident, Rasool Din, who was reached by telephone, the large explosion occurred in a congested area, and rescue operations were being hampered by power failures. Gas pipes had also exploded, making even more difficult the task of dousing the fire caused by the explosion, he said.

According to the A.P., television footage showed survivors frantically carrying bloodied victims through the rubble to cars and ambulances as fire crews sought to douse the flames.

Reuters reported that one building had collapsed in flames, while half a dozen others were badly damaged and on fire.

“It was a bomb,” a senior police official, Kashif Alam, was quoted by Reuters as saying. “The number of casualties is very high. People are still trapped under the rubble.”

The dead and injured were being taken to the local hospitals where the authorities had declared an emergency and were asking for donations of blood.

Peshawar has witnessed a series of suicide bombings by Taliban militants in the last few months.

Last month, gunmen abducted an Iranian diplomat in the city, a day after the assassination of an American aid official there.

The diplomat, Hesmatollah Atharzadeh, was the commercial counselor at the Iranian Consulate, and was leaving his house in a suburb when the gunmen attacked. The police said they suspected that Islamist militants were involved in the killing of the American aid worker, Stephen D. Vance.

Also last month, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the city’s main stadium after the closing ceremony of interprovincial games, the first such event after a new secular provincial government lifted the ban on sports imposed by a coalition of religious parties.

In August, a Pakistani Air Force bus was bombed in Peshawar, in an attack that killed 14 people, many of them air force personnel. The Taliban took responsibility for that attack, which was carried out by a remote-controlled bomb.

 

Graham Bowley contributed reporting from New York.

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