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March 21, 2013

Pakistani Refugee Camp Hit by Deadly Car Bomb

by Sharon Behn

A bomb blast in a refugee camp in northwest Pakistan has left 13 people dead and injured at least 30 others. The camp is home to people displaced by years of fighting between militants and the Pakistan army. 

The car bomb went off at the Jalozai camp food distribution center just moments after the refugees had picked up their rations. Women and children are among the dead.
 
Camp administrator Noor Akbar said that one of the workers giving out food was also killed in the blast, but casualties could have been much higher.

"The explosion took place just 15 minutes after the food was handed out," Akbar said. "That's why the death toll was lower. One NGO worker was killed."
 

Many residents in Jalozai camp get their food from the United Nations World Food Program. The camp is located just outside the northwestern city of Peshawar, where a number of bombings have taken place.
 
The Taliban said they were not behind the Thursday blast.
 
There are militants other than the Taliban network operating in the region, said Peshawar based political analyst Khadim Hussain. But he added even if they did not claim responsibility, Thursday's explosion had all the hallmarks of a Tehreek-e-Taliban attack.
 
"History tells us that over the past several decades, past several years, the TTP did not accept responsibility of those attacks which took away a part of their support base in the public, among the masses," said Hussain.
 
The Jalozai camp once hosted thousands of Afghan refugees who have since returned to Afghanistan. Today, the camp houses thousands of Pakistanis who have been displaced by the ongoing conflict in the northwest border region.
 
A doctor at Lady Reading Hospital, Abdul Majeed, said bodies were being rushed in for medical help.
 
"At least eight dead bodies were brought into the hospital, two of which were women, and there were six males, and one child," he said. "He says, 31 people were injured, including children."
 
District police officer Muhammad Hussain said some 30 to 40 kilos of explosive were used in the blast.
 
Pakistan's security forces have been battling the Pakistan Taliban for almost a decade. It is unclear why militants would target a food distribution center in this camp, but non-governmental aid workers have in the past been targeted by militants who perceive them as working for Western organizations.
 
The Pakistan Taliban recently withdrew their conditional offer of peace talks with the government, accusing the authorities of not being serious in wanting peace.​