A CAR BOMB has killed at least 39 people in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar, the third deadly strike to hit the city in a week.
The bomb caused carnage in the busy Kissa Khwani market in the city, the gateway to tribal regions which are a stronghold of militants linked to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
“The blast killed at least 39 people,” top local administration official Sahebzada Muhammad Anis told AFP.
A senior official at Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital, Dr Arshad Javaid, confirmed the new death toll and said 91 people were still in hospital after several of the injured were treated and sent home.
The dead included eight women and six children aged five to nine.
The bomb went off near a police station but officials said it did not appear to have been the target.
“It looks like the market was the target,” said bomb disposal chief Shafqat Malik.
He said a car parked by the roadside had apparently been converted into a remote-controlled bomb.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is in New York for the UN General Assembly, strongly condemned the blast.
“Those involved in the killing of innocent people are devoid of humanity and all religions,” he said in comments released by his office.
The blast caused major destruction, toppling a two-storey building and gutting several shops, an AFP reporter at the scene saw.
Thick grey clouds engulfed the entire area after several shops caught fire. At least 50 shops were either damaged or completely destroyed.
Human limbs, blood, broken glass, stationery, blood-soaked clothes and sandals littered the road.
Rescuers pulled several bodies from a passenger minivan which was passing the explosives-laden vehicle when it exploded.
Officials said the 13 minivan passengers were members of the same family.
“They had come to Peshawar from Shabqadar town for shopping ahead of my daughter’s wedding,” a family elder Sartaj Khan told AFP.
Officials and rescue workers were collecting body parts and bodies and putting them in ambulances for over an hour after the blast.
Peshawar is the gateway of the semi-autonomous tribal belt that US officials consider a safe haven for Al-Qaeda and other insurgents fighting both in Pakistan and across the border in Afghanistan.