PESHAWAR, Jan 27: A suspected suicide bomb attack — the second such incident in the country in two days — near a mosque in the Qisakhawani bazaar killed at least 13 people, including the Peshawar police chief, here on Saturday night.
The attack, which occurred about an hour before a Muharram procession had been due to begin, left police chief Malik Saad and DSP Khan Raziq dead. The senior police officials had been making arrangements for the procession.
The blast also caused a power cut, making it difficult for police to scout the site, splattered with blood and flesh. The narrow lane in which the blast had occurred was strewn with broken glass from shop fronts.
Police found a severed limb covered with a leather sock and believed to be that of the suicide bomber.
“We have collected the remains of what appears to be a suicide bomber,” DSP Ghulam Mohammad told the Reuters news agency.
“There is no crater in the ground, and it is possible that it was a suicide attack, but we cannot say that with authority at the moment,” Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao told the AFP news agency.
NWFP police officer Mohammad Sharif Virk told Dawn that police were investigating whether it was a suicide bomb attack or a bomb had been exploded by remote control.
He said it could not be said with certainty whether the terrorist was targeting the imambargah, nearly 250 metres away from the blast site, or the city police chief.
Two union council nazims, Mohammad Ali Safi and Asif Baghi, were also killed in the suicide bomb attack.
About 30 people were also injured in the explosion that targeted a police contingent guarding a Muharram procession, said Mr Sherpao.
According to doctors at the Lady Reading Hospital, where bodies of the victims and the injured were taken, 11 people were killed over 26 others injured in the blast.
They said City SP Sher Akber and DSPs Shah Nawaz and Sheda Mohammad were in a critical condition.
The ongoing wave of violence registered a spike when Pakistan army helicopter gunships struck a suspected militant hideout in the restive South Waziristan tribal region on Jan 16, killing at least 20 suspected militants.
Top militant commander Baitullah Mehsud vowed to avenge the deadly air strike, saying that his revenge would “cause pain to Pakistan”. And sure enough, a couple of days later, a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a military convoy in North Waziristan, killing four security personnel and a woman.
The coalition forces in Afghanistan made matters worse when their helicopters fired rockets at a security check-point in North Waziristan on Jan 22, killing a paramilitary soldier. Four days later, a suicide bomber killed himself and a security guard when he was stopped at the side entrance of an upscale Islamabad hotel, which is frequented by foreign diplomats and businessmen.
Moving scenes were in evidence at the Peshawar hospital as policemen broke into tears recalling how their seniors lost their lives in the suicide bomb attack.
“I was just 10 feet away from Malik Saad and other officials when a powerful bomb ripped through the bazaar,” said injured police constable Muzamil Khan, sobbing.