x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Bombs kill more than 100 in Pakistani market

A suicide attacker and a suspected car bomb unleashed carnage in a busy Pakistani market yesterday, killing more than 100 people including woman and children.

The death toll from attacks in a Pakistani tribal town has climbed to 102 as more bodies were recovered from debris and new deaths reported overnight in hospitals, officials said today. A suicide bomber and a suspected car bomb devastated several government buildings, shops and houses in Yakaghund town of Mohmand district in Pakistan's northwest tribal belt yesterday. Local administration chief Rasool Khan told AFP "the death toll has gone up to 102. Some bodies were recovered from the spot and some died in hospitals overnight." Mr Khan and other officials had earlier put the toll at 65 dead. The new toll was also confirmed by another local official, Mairaj Mohammad.

A Taliban and al Qa'eda-linked bombing spree across Pakistan has killed more than 3,500 people in three years since government troops besieged the radical Red Mosque in the capital, Islamabad, in July 2007. Witnesses said a huge explosion yesterday damaged an administration office, shops, a jail and other buildings in the small town not far from the border with Afghanistan, where 140,000 US-led foreign troops are fighting the Taliban.

Raj Wali, 23, a labourer who was working on a nearby road at the time of the blast and who was wounded in the explosion, said: "I turned round and saw the area engulfed in smoke. People were crying. I also saw body parts scattered near the blast site." Bodies were laid out on rope-slung cots, covered in white sheets as relatives arrived to identify the dead. A mother, two sisters and son were seen crying wretchedly over the body of one man.

Rescue workers were sifting through the debris of partially collapsed buildings and officials feared the death toll could rise further. Buildings in the market were made mostly of mud and clay. The force of the explosives collapsed flimsy wooden roofs on more than two dozen shops, twisted shutters and snapped off doors, an AFP reporter said.

Mr Khan said "We suspect that there were two blasts. One was a suicide attack on a motorbike. We have also found the wreckage of a car. It indicates that a car bomb was detonated with a remote control," "The target is not clear but it could have been the local administration and members of a peace committee who come to my office for routine weekly meetings on Fridays." At least 28 prisoners held for petty crime escaped after the force of the blast toppled an outer wall of a local jail, he said.

Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility, immediate suspicion fell on Islamist militant groups which have carved out havens in the remote and craggy mountains of Pakistan's tribal belt outside direct government control.

One security analyst, Imtiaz Gul, whose book on the tribal belt, The Most Dangerous Place, has just been published, said: "The attack appears to be part of a sustained campaign to disrupt peace efforts in the region. "There seems to be good coordination among forces, which are out to create instability and perpetrate violence".

Pakistani leaders called this week for a national conference to develop a strategy to counter the Islamist militant threat after a twin suicide attack killed 43 people at a shrine in Lahore on July 2.

* AFP