A blast outside an imambargah at a market in Parachinar killed at least 22 people and wounded 50 others, hospital sources told DawnNews on Friday.
“We have 22 dead bodies here at the hospital and 57 injured, including women and children,” said Moeen Begum, a surgeon at the hospital.
Ikramullah Khan, the local political agent, confirmed the death toll of the blast that took place this morning in the crowded Noor market.
What we know so far
22 people killed, 50 injured in explosion
Parliamentarian says the blast could be a suicide attack: official
An imambargah appears to be the target
Jamat-ul-Ahrar claims responsibility for the attack
Who was the target?
A parliamentarian from Parachinar, Sajid Hussain, told Reuters it was a suicide attack and was preceded by gunfire. “The attack took place in a busy area and a women's mosque appears to be the target,” he said.
A banned outfit Jamat-ul-Ahrar through a video message claimed responsibility for the attack.
The marketplace is a busy area and has several shops. It is also near one of the main imambargahs. Firing was also reported in the area before the blast occurred.
Government administrator Zahid Hussain says authorities are transporting the dead and wounded to nearby hospitals.
Hussain said Shias are apparently the target of the attack.
Security forces have cordoned off the area. The political administration has declared emergency at all hospitals in the area. An Army medical evacuation helicopter has also been flown to Parachinar for evacuation of the injured, an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement said.
Mumtaz Hussain, a doctor at the local Agency Headquarters Hospital, told Reuters five bodies, including a woman and two children, and more than three dozen wounded had been brought to the hospital and an appeal had been issued for blood donors.
“Patients are being brought to us in private cars and ambulances and we have received over three dozen patients so far,” Hussain told Reuters.
The attack is reminiscent of a bombing at a market place early this year, which resulted in the death over at least 25 people.
The January attack was claimed by Lashkar-i-Jhangvi al-Alami along with Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) splinter Shehryar Mehsud.
The army had launched Operation Raddul Fasaad last month following a spate of terror attacks in the country, which claimed more than a hundred lives and left hundreds others injured. The operation seeks to eliminate the "residual/latent threat of terrorism", consolidating the gains made in other military operations, and further ensuring the security of Pakistan's borders.
Hundreds of suspected terrorists have reportedly either been killed or arrested in raids carried out by security personnel since the start of the operation.
Parachinar is 250 kilometres west of Peshawar and has a population of 50,000. In the wake of sectarian clashes in 2007 army and paramilitary forces set up several checkpoints on roads leading to the town.
Kurram, the tribal region of which Parachinar is the main town, the only part of Pakistan's border region that has a significant Shia population, has been racked by sectarian violence.
Condemnations pour in
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack and said the government would keep up efforts to “eliminate the menace of terrorism”.
"The network of terrorists has already been broken and it is our national duty to continue this war until the complete annihilation of the scourge of terrorism from our soil," he said in a statement.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan took to twitter to condemn the blast. "(I) strongly condemn (the) blast in Parachinar, targeting innocent people," he said on twitter.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister must ensure availability of all medical facilities on emergency basis, he added.