Blast claimed by Taliban kills 21 in Pakistan

Islamabad, Jan 21 (IANS) A blast in a busy market killed at least 21 people, including two minors, on Saturday in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal region, in an attack jointly claimed by the Pakistani Taliban and a branch of the sectarian militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, officials said.

The blast occurred in Parachinar area’s Eidgah Market in Kurram Agency as people shopped for vegetables. Over 50 were also injured in the remotely controled attack, police said.

Hours after the incident, the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the blast in an emailed statement to media outlets.

The group said the attack was revenge of the killing of Asif Chuto, chief of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militant organisation, who was killed along with three others in an encounter with police in Punjab province earlier this week.

The other outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi said the two groups coordinated the attack together.

A senior security official claimed the explosion was caused by a remote control bomb, which went off at 8.50 a.m, during peak hours of business in the area. The official added that it was too early to draw conclusions.

The death toll was expected to rise as several of the injured were in critical condition, a hospital official said.

An eyewitness saw bodies strewn around the market and wounded persons crying for help.

“There was no ambulance, and people had to carry the injured in private vehicles to the hospital,” he said.

This was the fourth attack in recent years in Parachinar’s Eidgah Market. According to a local administration official, 2016 was relatively peaceful in the area, however, this incident was going to cast a shadow of doubt regarding peace in the area.

A statement from Pakistan Army’s Inter-Service Public Relations confirmed 20 casualties and 30 injuries. Some of the injured were airlifted to Kohat and Peshawar, read the statement.

“There was a loud bang and a thick layer of smoke,” eyewitnesses recalled.

An eyewitness said he saw children soaked in blood after the bomb exploded. The official list of the those killed and injured displayed outside the agency headquarter hospital in Parachinar included names of two minors, who were killed in the incident.

Expressing grief over the loss of life, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed concerned authorities to provide best medical treatment to the injured. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan while condemning the blast ordered a detailed report regarding the incident.

Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa directed authorities for quick evacuation and best medical treatment of the injured.

Kurram Agency is one of the most sensitive tribal areas as it borders three Afghan provinces. At one point it was one of the key routes for militant movement across the border.