PESHAWAR: At least 15 people, including two children, were killed and 38 injured when a car bomb went off in a busy bus stand on Kohat Road on Thursday.
According to Peshawar police chief Syed Imtiaz Altaf, the bombing appeared to have been carried out in retaliation for a military operation under way in Khyber Agency.
“The war on terror is going on and such attacks by militants can be expected anywhere,” Imtiaz Altaf told reporters.
Another police official said the car, which was parked at the bus stand, was blown up during rush hour.
He said although police were on the alert, the vastness of the area made it impossible to search every person and vehicle.
The bomb disposal unit’s chief, Shafqat Malik, told reporters that at least 40kgs of explosives packed with artillery shells had been used in the explosion.
At least 20 passenger vehicles as well as a number of shops and cabins were destroyed. The blast smashed windows of nearby houses and offices.
The bodies and the injured were taken to the Lady Reading Hospital.
Personnel of the Frontier Corps and police cordoned off the area and volunteers of the 1122 service, Edhi Foundation and Al Khidmat Foundation carried out rescue work.Police took two people into custody for questioning. One of the suspects was draped in a blanket and sported beard and long hair.
An official of Bana Marhi police said that engine and chassis numbers of the car used in the attack had been found.
He said police had received an alert about a bomb explosion at markets, hospitals, schools and busy offices, but there had been no warning that the bus stand might be attacked.
“We frequently receive such threats, but this blast was not expected,” he added.
District Coordination Officer Siraj Ahmed Khan said the road had been cleared of encroachment to facilitate ambulances.
The bus stands caters for passengers to and from Kohat, Darra Adamkhel, Hangu, Karak, Miramshah, Matni, Badbher and other tribal areas.
Witnesses Naseer and Ghaffar said they were working at the stand when the blast took place, sending a thick column of smoke shooting into the sky.
Hospital spokesman Syed Jamil Shah said four bodies were charred beyond recognition.
The dead included eight-year-old Muslim Khan of Badbher; Abdullah (12) of Bazidkhel; Amir Ali (38), of Karak; Kashif of Multan; Mohammad Amin (50) of Kurram Agency; Sabz Ali Khan (50) of Banda Musam Khan and Haider (17) of Badbher. The condition of six injured people was precarious.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government announced a compensation of Rs300,000 for families of each of the dead.
AFP adds: Dilawar Khan, 60, who was wounded in his left shoulder, said in the Lady Reading Hospital that his son Abdullah had been killed while helping him run a tea stall during a break from school.
“I was preparing tea and my son was serving it to some drivers when the huge blast happened,” he said, through his tears.
“Something like shrapnel hit me in the shoulder but I was conscious. Then I was brought to hospital and saw my son’s body. I’ve lost everything.”
Officials said all the victims were innocent civilians, most of them passengers waiting to board coaches.
They said the bomb had been detonated by a timed device.
More than 530 bomb attacks have killed around 4,900 people across the country since troops stormed the Lal Masjid in Islamabad in July 2007.
Last Friday, a suicide bomber killed 31 people in Parachinar, the headquarters of Kurram Agency.