Suicide Car Bomb Kills Dozens in Pakistan, Prompting Talk of Retaliation
The attack in the Khyber Bazaar area also wounded more than 100 people and demonstrated the ability of insurgents to strike in Pakistan's major cities despite ongoing operations pressuring their networks and the death of their leader in a U.S. missile strike.
A charred skeleton of a bus flipped on its side in the middle of the road, while remains of a motorbike lay twisted nearby, TV footage showed. Passersby rushed to cover the bodies of victims whose clothes were burned off, while a man carried a woman apparently knocked out by the blast. One man staggered from the scene, his entire face covered with blood.
"I saw a blood soaked leg landing close to me," said Noor Alam, who suffered wounds on his legs and face and was at the overwhelmed Lady Reading hospital. "I understood for the first time in my life what a doomsday would look like."
Peshawar Police Chief Liaqat Ali Khan said the attacker was in a car packed with "a huge quantity of explosives and artillery rounds." A minibus apparently carrying passengers nearby was also leveled in the blast.
It came days after a suicide attack killed five at a U.N. office in the capital, Islamabad and two weeks after another explosion killed 11 in a Peshawar commercial area.
Provincial Health Minister Syed Zahir Ali Shah said 41 people were killed and more than 100 wounded Friday. It was the deadliest attack in Pakistan since a suicide bomber demolished a packed mosque near the northwestern town of Jamrud in March, killing about 50.
"Death has to come one day, but we will keep chasing these terrorists, and this attack cannot deter our resolve," Provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said as he visited the bloody scene.
The militants have threatened bombings if the army doesn't back off, but the U.S. has continued to prod Pakistan to take action against insurgents using its soil to fuel the insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan.
The army has confirmed it is prepared to launch a major offensive in South Waziristan, a region along the Afghan border that many consider the fountainhead of suicide attacks and other militant activity in Pakistan. It has not given a date for the launch.
"We have no other option but to carry out an operation in South Waziristan," Interior Minister Rehman Malik told a local television station after the attack Friday. "All roads are leading to South Waziristan. We will have to proceed."
Associated Press Writer Munir Ahmad contributed to this report from Islamabad.