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Bomb Rips Through Market in Northwest Pakistan, Kills 25

Authorities in northwestern Pakistan say that a suicide car bomber has killed at least 25 people and wounded dozens others.

Police say the attack occurred near the northwestern town of Kohat where a suicide bomber detonated his explosive-filled car in a busy marketplace. The powerful explosion instantly caused most of the deaths and rescue workers shifted dozens of wounded to local hospitals where doctors say at least ten are in critical condition.

Eyewitnesses say that several cars were destroyed while the intense blast brought down more than a dozen shops at the crowded market.

Local police official Ali Hassan Khan was present on the scene shortly after the blast.

The police officer says the suicide bomber struck his explosive-filled car with other vehicles parked on the roadside. He says buildings on both sides of the road have collapsed and rescue workers were trying to recover bodies from under the rubble.

There are no claims of responsibility for attack that police suspect could be part of the ongoing sectarian violence between majority Sunni and minority Shi'ite Muslim extremist groups. The attack took place a day after a bomb explosion in the area wounded six people.

The place where Friday's suicide bombing occurred is mostly inhabited by minority Shi'ite Muslims. The northwestern Pakistani district has witnessed a series of sectarian and other militant attacks in recent years.

Taliban militants, who belong to majority Sunni Muslim community, are also active in the area and are blamed for fueling sectarian tensions as part of their strategy to fight the Pakistani security forces.

Despite an ongoing military offensive against Taliban fighters in some of the northwestern districts and adjoining tribal areas, which border Afghanistan, militants continue to mount attacks. However, Pakistani military officials say the violence has subsided in recent weeks because they claim to have broken the back of Taliban fighters in Pakistan.

Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas tells VOA Taliban militants are on the run both in Swat and the tribal areas and the military success against these extremists have brought down the number of terrorist attacks in Pakistan in recent weeks.

"It has a huge impact on all the militant groups around who were disturbing the peace of the area who were challenging the writ [authority] of the government and conducting suicide bombings or terrorism against the people of Pakistan," he said.

General Abbas says that key Taliban commanders are among the nearly 2,000 militants the Swat offensive his killed while security forces have arrested nearly 3,000 suspected terrorists.

Military officials also believe the death of chief commander of the Taliban in Pakistan, Baitullah Mehsud, in a suspected U.S. drone attack last month on his hideout in the Waziristan border region has dealt a major blow to militants and led to infighting among Taliban groups over his successor.