KOHAT, Sept 18: At least 33 people were killed and 80 others injured when a bomber blew up an explosive-laden vehicle in a market on the Kohat-Hangu road on Friday. According to witnesses, the blast was so powerful that it damaged all shops within a radius of 100 yards.
Preliminary investigation showed that the bomber had brought his jeep from the direction of Kohat and crossed several checkpoints before exploding it at the centre of the bazaar, crowded by people from Hangu, Orakzai Agency and Kohat.
Police and bomb disposal officials were turned back by a mob which pelted their vehicles with stones.
According to the administration, a new militant group, the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi Al Almi, claimed responsibility for the attack. The banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan denied having a role in the blast. Police officials said they could not comment on the target of the bomber. However, most of the shops and vehicles destroyed in the attack belonged to members of the Shia community.
As many as 49 shops, including two shopping centres, and 16 vehicles were destroyed. Hundreds of limbs lay scattered on the road and in shops and vehicles. A number of people were buried under the rubble of a two-storey building.
An enraged crowd did not allow the bomb disposal squad to enter the market for several hours. Officials of the squad said the bomber had used a double-cabin open jeep loaded with 150kgs of explosives. Ball bearings and Kalashnikov bullets were used to maximise death and destruction.
The engine of the vehicle, along with parts of the head and a leg and hair of the bomber, were
found about 25 yards away from a 12-foot-long and eight-foot-deep crater on the road caused by the explosion.
Emergency was declared in all hospitals in the area. Dozens of injured people were brought to the KDA divisional hospital in private ambulances.
Several injured people died on their way to hospital because of a delay in rescue work and also because no hospital was near the scene of the tragedy.
AFP adds: Police said the bomber had come from Orakzai Agency, the home district of TTP leader Hakeemullah Mehsud.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the attack and said the government was determined to “stamp out the menace of terrorism and militancy”.