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June 16, 2012

26 Killed in Pakistan Car Bombing

by Sharon Behn

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A car bomb in northwest Pakistan has killed 26 people and wounded more than 50 others.
 
The bomb exploded Saturday near a bus stand at a crowded bazaar in Landi Kotal, in the Khyber tribal district.  No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but the Pakistani Taliban have carried out hundreds of similar bombings across the country.
 
One eyewitness described the explosion as powerful. "It was a huge blast and there was dark smoke everywhere, and people rushed in to rescue the wounded, and fires broke out in the nearby shops,” he said.
 
Television pictures from the remote area showed the burned-out remains of a car, market stalls in splinters and a charred building with its front blown off. Residents were rushing victims to the hospital on stretchers.
 
Retired Pakistani Brigadier Mahmood Shah, speaking from the nearby city of Peshawar, said the blast had been carefully planned.

“In fact the purpose was to terrify the maximum people, and so far 22 have been reported killed and about 25 are wounded," said Shah.
 
Militants including the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaida are entrenched in the tribal regions. From there, they take advantage of the porous border to launch attacks against NATO and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.
 
But Pakistan is also the victim of militants' attacks. The latest bomb blast came just one week after another bomb ripped through a bus carrying government workers in Peshawar, killing 19.
 
Shah says the violence is part of an ongoing low-level conflict in the area as government forces move to flush militants out of the region.

"There is [a] major operation going on behind this area, and this operation is going on for the last six months, and it is soldiers moving on foot, so it probably seems very slow," said Shah.
 
The United States has criticized Islamabad for not doing enough to rid itself of militants who launch cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.

"Pakistan is fighting most effectively against the militants in their own way, and maybe the world is not aware of it," said Shah, defending his country's efforts.
 
The retired brigadier says he is in close contact with military leaders in the region, and he has learned that foreign fighters from Algeria and Sudan were among the many militants killed in recent battles.