JAMRUD: At least 19 people, among them women and children, were killed and 71 others injured when a powerful car bomb ripped through the Jamrud bazaar in Khyber Agency on Monday, officials and witnesses said.
Officials feared the death toll might increase as condition of some victims was critical while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain called for a ‘full-scale’ military operation to defeat militants.
More than a dozen shops and almost an equal number of vehicles were damaged. Some vehicles and shops caught fire after the explosion.
Security personnel cordoned off the place immediately after the explosion and took the bodies and the injured to hospitals.
“I saw limbs of the dead and the injured in pools of blood when I reached the scene minutes after the blast,” Jamrud Khasadar line officer Khandad Kukikhel said.
He said 14 bodies were taken to the Jamrud Civil Hospital and three to Hayatabad Medical Com-plex, adding that two injured men died during treatment in Peshawar.
According to Assistant Political Agent Jahangir Azam Wazir, a Suzuki Alto parked near a mechanic’s shop in Fauji market had been used in the blast. “The motive behind the attack is not yet clear,” he said.
The official said the condition of at least 10 injured people, including a minor boy, was serious.
“We are afraid the death toll may increase because of the precarious condition of some of the injured,” he said at the Hayatabad Medical Complex where 44 victims were under treatment.
Some of the injured were shifted to the Khyber Teaching Hospital in Peshawar.
Shah Nazar Maniakhel, 35, said he saw a huge fireball in the air when the explosion took place.
“I fell unconscious and found myself on a hospital bed when woke up,” the man with blood stains all over his clothes said.
Jana Gul, a van driver, said he was walking across the road when the blast flung him into a shop about five metres away. He suffered head injuries and his right leg was fractured.
“There was chaos as the place was engulfed by thick, black smoke and the injured were crying for help,” he said.
Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain, who visited the scene of the blast, said: “The security forces are always alert to thwart such incidents but it is extremely difficult to prevent such
acts of terrorism because militants are now looking for softer targets.”
“It is time the governments of Pakistan, the United States and Afghanistan evolved a joint strategy to tackle the menace of terrorism in this region,” he said, adding that a full-scale military operation was also the need of the hour to defeat militants.
It was the third such incident in Jamrud bazaar this year. Thirty-five people died and over 50 were injured when an explosive-laden pick-up was detonated at a bus stop on Jan 10, and two people were killed and 12 others wounded in a similar incident on the Jamrud bypass road in April.
Nobody accepted responsibility for the two incidents.
AFP adds: The bomb exploded near a bus queue. “Four women were among those killed and they were all Afghans.
“They were coming from the border in a hired car which was destroyed. Their Afghan passports were found in a bag,” Dr Sameen Jan Shinwari said at the local hospital Dr Shinwari said a five-year-old Afghan girl accompanying the women and two six-year-old Pakistani boys were also among those killed.
Khyber Agency’s top administrative official Mutahir Zeb said: “We are still ascertaining how the vehicle was blown up.”