ISLAMABAD: A powerful explosion struck a crowded central bazaar in the chaotic city of Peshawar in Pakistan’s northwest Friday, killing at least 22 people and wounding more than 90, Pakistani officials said.
The chief of police in Peshawar, Malik Naveed, told a television station that the explosion occurred in an area in the center of the city at a time when many people were out shopping for a coming festival. He said that the explosion, which took place at 7:20 p.m. local time, struck near a Shiite mosque and that he expected the number of dead and wounded to rise.
According to a Peshawar resident, Rasool Din, who was reached by telephone, the large explosion occurred in a congested area, and rescue operations were being hampered by power failures. Gas pipes had also exploded, making even more difficult the task of dousing the fire caused by the explosion, he said.
The dead and wounded were being taken to the local hospitals, where the authorities had declared an emergency and were asking for donations of blood.
Peshawar has witnessed a series of suicide bombings by Taliban militants in the past few months. In November, gunmen abducted an Iranian diplomat in the city, a day after the assassination of an American aid official there.
The diplomat, Hesmatollah Atharzadeh, who was the commercial counselor at the Iranian Consulate, was leaving his house in a suburb when the gunmen attacked. The police said they suspected that Islamist militants were involved in the killing of the American aid worker, Stephen Vance.
Also last month, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the city’s main stadium after the closing ceremony of interprovincial games, the first such event after a new secular provincial government lifted the ban on sports imposed by a coalition of religious parties.
In August, a Pakistani Air Force bus was bombed in Peshawar in an attack that killed 14 people, many of them air force personnel. The Taliban took responsibility for that attack, which was carried out by a remote-controlled bomb.
Graham Bowley contributed reporting from New York.