By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA): At least 24 people have been killed and dozens injured in a suicide attack in a crowded market in northwestern Pakistan on Friday, officials and local media reported. Among the dead and injured were women and children.
The blast hit a busy Noor market in the far flung town of Parachinar near the Afghan border and injured over 100 people, according to local administration official Ikramullah Khan.
A suicide bomber detonated a car ‘rigged with explosives’ outside a Shia Muslims religious centre [Imambargah] in a busy marketplace in the main town of Kurram tribal region. The Shia Muslims were preparing for Friday prayers.
Authorities fear a rise in the death toll as several injured are said to be in a critical condition.
Jamaatul Ahrar, a splinter terrorist group of the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, claimed credit for the deadly bombing in Parachinar, which came less than two months after a bomb ripped through the main vegetable market in the same city on January 21.
“A car cruised through the market and pulled up outside the main entrance to the Imambargah where it detonated with an ear-splitting bang,” eyewitness Manzar Hussain told The Express Tribune. The entrance is reserved for female members of the local Shia Muslim community. Security officials confirmed it was a suicide car bombing.
Footage aired on local Express TV showed several vehicles with their windscreens, and windows shattered by shrapnel. Pieces of human flesh, clothes, shoes, glasses, and other belongings lay scattered around the site covered in blood.
The Friday bombing, likely aimed at inflicting maximum harm ahead of the weekly congregation at a nearby Shia Muslim imambargah.
Ali Afzaal, a local resident told Anadolu Agency by telephone that a number of injured were transported to the hospital in private cars, and even on motorbikes due to shortage of ambulances.
Pakistan army said it had flown helicopters to the town for swift evacuation of injured to hospitals Peshawar and other towns.
A security official said that security had been at stepped up in Kurram Agency since January this year. However, local lawmaker Sajid Hussain Turi claimed that threats to the Imambargah conveyed to the political administration two months ago had been ignored.
The Jamaatul Ahrar faction of TTP claimed responsibility for the attack in a message sent to media outlets and identified the bomber as Abu Darda, a resident of Mohmand Agency. The group claimed that the target was the Shia community.
“The network of terrorists has already been broken and it is our national duty to continue this war until the complete annihilation of the scourge of terrorism from our soil,” said the Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif.
Parachinar, located 137 kilometers west of Peshawar, is the only Shia-dominated tribal area in Pakistan and has regularly been the target of terrorist attacks.
The latest attack follows the revival of controversial military courts in the country on Friday to try the hardcore militants for speedy trial.
Pakistan army has been engaged in an anti-terrorism operation in the restive tribal belt along the Afghanistan border since 2014 claiming to have killed over 5000 suspected militants. Over 700 troops have also lost their lives in landmine blasts, and clashes during this period.
Additional report by The Muslim News
[Map of Pakistan NWFP by Pahari Sahib/GNU Free Documentation License]