Two bomb blasts kill 27 in northwest Pakistan


PESHAWAR: December 5, 2008. (AFP) – At least 27 people were killed and dozens more wounded when two bomb blasts struck crowded markets in northwest Pakistan Friday as shoppers prepared for the Eid Muslim festival.

Most of the victims died when an explosives-laden car blew up in a busy marketplace in the heart of Peshawar, the capital of the violence-hit province bordering Afghanistan. The blast, which killed 21 people and wounded 84, occurred just hours after six people died in a car bomb explosion at a market in the semi-autonomous Orakzai tribal district near Peshawar. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the two attacks, the latest in a wave of suicide and other attacks that have claimed more than 1,500 lives in the past 16 months. The Orakzai blast occurred in an area dominated by the Shiite Muslim community with a history of sectarian violence. Peshawar is close to Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal zones, which border Afghanistan and where government forces have been battling pro-Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants. The Peshawar blast tore through a hotel and several adjoining buildings, destroying shops and causing panic among crowds of shoppers ahead of the Eid Muslim festival, police said. It went off just outside a Shiite mosque in the city's main Qisakhawani bazaar which was packed with shoppers, police said, but it was not clear if the mosque was the target. "The blast was so powerful that it caused five-foot deep crater," police chief Malik Naveed told reporters at the site, adding up to 25 kilogrammes of explosives were used in the blast, he said. The death toll, earlier reported to be 16, was later revised to 21 with 84 injured, local police officer Naveed Khalid told AFP. The narrow lanes of the historic bazaar were littered with human limbs and charred bodies, witnesses said. Ambulances rushed to the scene to take away the dead and the wounded, who included women and children. "I was busy in Eid shopping when a powerful explosion rocked the entire area. I fell on the ground and saw cars and shops on fire," 16-year-old student Iqraruddin told AFP at the hospital. "It was like hell had broken loose." The United States and Western countries allege that Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants have set up safe sanctuaries in Pakistan's tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. India blamed last week's Mumbai attacks on "elements" in Pakistan and said all ten attackers who rampaged through its commercial centre were trained in and came from Pakistan. Pakistan has urged India to end the blame game and has pledged unconditional cooperation in investigating the Mumbai terror attacks. But the row has threatened to unhinge a four-year-old peace process between the nuclear armed neighbours which have fought three wars since their independence from Britain in 1947.

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