ISLAMABAD — A massive car bomb explosion in Pakistan has killed at least 37 people, including women and children, and wounded at least 75 others. This is the third deadly bombing in a week to occur in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing a total of more than 140 people.
Pakistani authorities say the bomb exploded Sunday during morning rush hours in Pesahawar’s oldest, Qissa Khawani, bazaar and the blast inflicted widespread destruction.
Witnesses reported that it also caused many shops and nearby vehicles to go up in flames.
Rescue workers rushed to the scene and transported scores of dead and wounded to local hospitals. There are several women and children among the dead.
City Commissioner Sahibzada Anis tells VOA that some people are critically wounded. He says that “terrorists” had in fact turned the entire vehicle into a bomb.
“As per (initial) investigation, it was a car blast and 200 kilo explosives had been used," said Anis. "The scene of occurrence was close to a police station, but it is yet to be ascertained whether the target was the police station or the civil population.”
The bloodshed took place not far from the All Saints Church, where last Sunday a pair of suicide bombers struck in a crowd of worshipers. The carnage left at least 85 members of the country’s minority Christian community dead, nearly half of them women and children.
The church was repaired and reopened under extremely tight security on Sunday, offering special services and prayers for victims of the blast. A local journalist, Sabookh Syed, says he was witnessing the rituals when the market blast took place nearby.
He tells VOA that “the powerful blast also shook the church building, causing a scramble among Christian worshipers while terrified women and children began crying and raised their hands towards the sky”.
On Friday, a bomb exploded in a crowded bus while it was travelling through the outskirts of Peshawar, carrying government employees to their homes. That attack killed 19 people and wounded dozens more.
Authorities blame Taliban extremists, who are waging a bloody insurgency in Pakistan, for Sunday’s bombing and previous “acts of terrorism”.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has promised to engage the Islamist militants in peace talks to try to end the bloodshed, but many believe the latest violence has apparently left little room for his government to pursue a negotiated settlement.
The Pakistani prime minister “strongly condemned” Sunday’s bomb blast in Peshawar. In a written statement, Sharif says “those involved in the killing of innocent people are devoid of humanity and all religions."