PESHAWAR At least 100 persons were killed and over 200 others received injuries as a result of a powerful car bomb explosion here at the Meena Bazaar, one of the most congested parts of the volatile city, on Wednesday afternoon.
Police sources and eyewitnesses informed that explosive-laden white Alto car was parked near a huge building at Meena Bazaar. The intensity of the blast can be judged from the fact that it damaged six buildings, around 30 to 40 shops and a mosque.
A large number of women and children are among the dead and the injured, as some nearby houses were also damaged in the blast. The wife, son and daughter of Provincial General Secretary of JUI-F, Jalil Jan, were also among the injured. It is feared that the death toll may increase, as some dead bodies are still trapped inside the damaged buildings.
The officials of police, Frontier Constabulary, secret agencies and bomb disposal squad rushed towards the site of the blast and cordoned off the area. Police also resorted to aerial firing to disperse the masses for avoiding casualties in any follow-up blast.
Emergency was imposed in all hospitals of the provincial capital and the injured and dead bodies were shifted to Lady Reading Hospital, Khyber Teaching Hospital and Hayatabad Medical Complex. Most of the dead bodies are badly mutilated as fire broke out after the blast. It was learnt that about 62 bodies lying at Lady Reading Hospital were beyond identification. The fire brigade staff succeeded in extinguishing fire after a struggle of half an hour.
Talking to journalists, AIG Bomb Disposal Squad, Shafqat Malik, said that around 150 kilograms explosive material was used in the explosion.
President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani have strongly condemned the blast and reiterated resolve that the government would not be deterred by such cowardly acts.
They said the government would not let the terrorists play with the lives and property of the people and would continue to wage a full-scale operation till their complete elimination. They separately asked the provincial authorities to submit them a report at the earliest and make all-out efforts to arrest the perpetrators.
NWFP Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti and Governor Owais Ahmed Ghani also strongly condemned the blast and ordered high-level inquiry of the incident. Senior Minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour visited the blast site. He said that terrorists had no religion and they were only bent upon to defame Islam.
Later, NWFP Information Minister Mian iftikhar Hussain visited Lady Reading Hospital and inquired about the injured. He strongly condemned the attack on innocent civilians and said that Jihad against terrorists would be continued till its logical end.
Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan while strongly condemning the blast said that hidden hands behind such incidents should be exposed, adding that government should ensure safety of lives and public property. He expressed his deep grief and sorrow over the loss of lives and prayed for early recovery of the injured.
Central leader of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) Zafar Iqbal Jhagra and Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party (S) Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao strongly condemned the incident and termed it an inhuman act.
Agencies add: The attack underscored the scale of the militant threat in Pakistan just hours after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Islamabad for three days of talks with political and military leaders.
Angry flames leapt out of burning wreckage and smoke billowed in the air as a building collapsed into dust and rubble. Police evacuated panicked residents from the smouldering wreckage and firemen hosed down the flames.
It was a car bomb. Some people are still trapped in a building. We are trying to rescue them, bomb disposal official Shafqat Malik told reporters.
We have received 92 dead bodies, 213 people were injured, we are facing a shortage of blood, a doctor in the Peshawars main Lady Reading Hospital told AFP as staff declared an emergency.
A hospital official outside the casualty wing made a public announcement, appealing on people to donate blood as doctors spoke of harrowing scenes.
There are body parts. There are people. There are burnt people. There are dead bodies. There are wounded, Im not in a position to count. But my estimate is that the death toll may rise, said Doctor Muslim Khan.
Several buildings and a mosque have been badly damaged while a fire has engulfed a building, witness Aqueel-ur-Rehman told Reuters from the scene.
I can see three bodies lying under the debris, he said.
Rescue workers and government officials had warned that casualties were trapped under collapsed shops at the bomb blast site, where a large blaze, a toppled building and the narrow streets hampered the relief effort.
I am counting the dead bodies, 86 are confirmed dead, the injured are more than 200, there are children and women among the dead, Mohammad Gul, a police official at the hospital, told AFP.
The area was one of the most congested parts of Peshawar and full of womens clothing shops and general market stalls popular in the city of 2.5 million.
A building structure has collapsed... People are trapped in the fire and buildings. This is the most congested area of the city, Sahibzada Mohammad Anees, a senior local administrative official, told a private TV channel.
Peshawar, a teeming metropolis, is a gateway to northwest tribal belt, where the military is pressing a major offensive against Taliban militants blamed for some of the worst of the recent carnage.