Police in northwestern Pakistan say two separate bomb explosions in the city of Peshawar have killed at least 23 people and wounded many others. The violence-hit city is the gateway to Afghanistan.
Police say that most of the deaths occurred when a suicide bomber attacked a rally in Peshawar's busy Qissa Khawani market. Activists of the right-wing religious party, Jamaat-i-Islami, had organized the rally to protest against frequent power cuts in the city.
Those killed in the attack include a senior police officer, his security guard and several rally leaders. The city police chief says the slain police officer and his colleagues were apparently the target of the deadly attack.
An eyewitness told reporters on the scene the bomber was a teenage boy who detonated the device as the rally was about to disperse.
The man says the blast instantly killed and wounded many people, but fears of a second explosion kept people away from helping the victims for a while.
Police say they have found the head of the suicide bomber and an investigation is underway.
The attack occurred hours after a bomb exploded outside a school run by a police welfare foundation. A six-year-old boy was killed and at least eight others were wounded in the blast.
Provincial Information Minister Iftikhar Hussain tells VOA the violence is the work of Taliban extremists, in retaliation for security forces dismantling their bases.
The minister says these terrorists are like beasts and they are killing innocent people. But he says the violence will not deter the government's campaign aimed at eliminating the militants.
The attacks in Peshawar follow three bomb blasts over the weekend in the nearby town of Kohat that killed around 50 people.
Pakistani security forces have conducted frequent raids against al-Qaida and Taliban militants in the country's northwestern tribal areas, which border Afghanistan. Officials believe the security operations have provoked the militants to carry out attacks on security forces, mosques, schools, public places and markets, leaving thousand of people dead in recent years.