Pakistani officials say a suspected suicide bomber exploded a car near the provincial legislative assembly that was in session in Peshawar, killing at least 49 people and wounding 120 others.
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The blast scattered debris and destroyed vehicles in Peshawar's crowded Khyber Bazaar area, located in the center of the city.
One eyewitness tells VOA he was sitting in his shop when a big explosion shook the area Friday morning, sending dust in the air and causing objects to fall from the walls.
A teacher working in a nearby school also says that when he went outside after the blast, he saw bodies lying all around the area.
Police officials say the attacker was in a car packed with a huge quantity of explosives.
Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik indicated that such acts of terrorism might force the government to launch a much anticipated anti-Taliban operation in South Waziristan.
He says Friday's blast, along with a number of other deadly attacks in Peshawar, shows the government has in his words "no option" but to go on the offensive.
While the military has not publicly set a date for any major operation in the area, U.N. officials say some 80,000 civilians have fled the region in anticipation of a new offensive.