Vechiles and shops burn at site of the explosion - Photo by AFP
A man runs past burning vehicles after the explosion near the Qissa Khawani market - Photo by AFP
PESHAWAR: Twin blasts near the Qissa Khawani market in Peshawar on Sunday killed 41 people and wounded at least 103 others.
Earlier the top local administration official Sahebzada Muhammad Anis had said that 37 people had been killed.
Dr Arshad Javaid, a senior official at Lady Reading Hospital, confirmed the toll and said at least 103 people had been injured.
The blasts, which took place at 11am in the morning, set shops and surrounding vehicles aflame. At least 50 shops were either damaged or completely destroyed.
The first blast was relatively smaller, and has been likened to a hand grenade. The second was much stronger and more destructive.
According to AIG Bomb Disposal Unit Shafkat Malik, 200 kilogram worth of explosives were used in a car parked near the market. He added that the blast was done via remote control.
“In fact, the whole car, which had been parked along the roadside, was converted into a remote controlled bomb,” he said.
Provincial Information Minister Shaukat Yusufzai stated that the Peshawar Police Station was the main target of the two blasts. However, local police officials do not believe the police station was the target of the blasts.
“Police station does not seem to be the target as it was away from the attack site,” said bomb disposal chief Shafqat Malik. He added that “it looks like the market was the target."
There was terror amongst the people in the area, who were helping each other out.
The wounded were initially being shifted to the hospital by the people in the area. They also included women and children.
According to a correspondent, five to six women who had been in the market with their children were completely burned as a result. He also added that no security had been present in the area at the time of the blast.
Following the blast, an emergency was declared in Lady Reading Hospital.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan in an official statement strongly condemned the blasts and assured the nation, especially the people of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KP), that the culprits would be brought to justice soon. He declared that nothing justified the killing of innocent women and children, and such acts were against Islam.
He added that it was unfortunate that some parties were using the tragedy for political gain, when in fact all forces should be working together to bring peace to Pakistan.
Khan also demanded of the PTI coalition government to move on emergency basis to bolster Provincial security and intelligence set ups, stating that KP was being deliberately targeted by forces which did not wish to see peace and stability in the country.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is in New York for the UN General Assembly, also 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.
A heavy infiltration of security forces and rescue teams was dispatched to the area.
"We have been fighting terrorists for a long time, and are fully prepared to go to war against them," said Commissioner Peshawar in a statement after the blast.
Rescuers pulled several bodies from a passenger minivan which was passing the explosives-laden vehicle when it exploded.
Officials and rescue workers were collecting body parts and bodies and putting them in ambulances for over an hour after the blast.
The city is the gateway of the semi-autonomous tribal belt considered to be a safe haven for Al Qaeda and other insurgents fighting both in Pakistan and across the border in Afghanistan.
Two weeks ago the country's main political parties backed the prospect of peace talks with the militants, an idea floated several times by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. However, a series of attacks since then, including the killing of a senior army commander, have led many to question the strategy.
However, Shahidullah who is a spokesperson for the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) told Dawn.com that the TTP was targeting only security forces and government functionaries. He added that it had nothing to do with the general public and was not involved in the the blasts at the Qissa Khawani market.
Shahidullah further stated that the TTP condemned the blasts which had claimed the lives of innocent people and stressed that the organization has no enmity with the masses .
The blasts took place exactly a week after twin sucide attacks in a church in Peshawar claimed 80 lives. This is the third attack in Peshawar in a week.
-In correspondence with Zahir Shah