PESHAWAR: At least 15 people were killed and 44 wounded when a bomb blew up inside a bus in Peshawar, the main city of Pakistan’s insurgency-wracked northwest, officials said, with the toll feared to rise.
No group has so far claimed responsibility for the explosion, which took place as the bus carrying mainly government employees was passing through the crowded shopping district of Saddar.
But the country has been battling insurgency for more than a decade, with groups such as the Pakistani Taliban routinely carrying out attacks as part of their struggle to overthrow the government.
Police official and hospital authorities confirmed the incident and casualties.
Bomb disposal officials said a four-kilogramme (nine-pound) improvised explosive device (IED) had been planted near the bus’s gas cylinder and appeared to have been detonated remotely.
“The IED was fitted with ball bearings and was planted beneath the sixth row of seats from the back,” police official Abbas Majeed added.
Talking to reporters at the site, Abbas Majid Marwat, another senior police source, said the bus was transporting government employees from the northwestern town of Mardan to Peshawar.
Rescue workers at the site were seen carrying the injured from the blue bus on stretchers to waiting ambulances.
A list issued by Lady Reading Hospital identifies the killed by names, Shahid Ali from Mardan Takhtbai, Muhammad Hamid Jan from Tangi, Arshad Ali from Malakand, Arshad Khan, Muhammad Riaz and Muhammad Inam from Mardan while Shafiq is suspected to be a refugee . The rest of the victims are yet to be identified.
Insurgency began after the US-led invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan in 2001, which led to a spillover of militants across the border and a surge in recruitment for extremist groups.
The conflict reached new heights in 2007 when various militant factions came together under the umbrella Pakistani Taliban group, which was able to entrench itself in the country’s border tribal areas and make territorial gains.
Pakistan’s army launched its latest series of offensives in the region in 2014 in a bid to wipe out militant bases bring an end to the war, that has cost thousands of lives.
Overall levels of violence have fallen, with 2015 seeing the fewest number of civilian and security forces casualties since the formation of the Pakistani Taliban.
But the militant group is still able to to carry out periodic attacks, particularly in the country’s northwest.
A suicide bomber killed 17 people and injured 31 in a court complex in the northwestern town of Shabqadar last week, in an attack which the Taliban described as revenge for the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri s execution.
The Pakistani Taliban’s Jamat-ul-Ahrar faction claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was to avenge the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, who gunned down the governor of Punjab in 2011 over a call to reform the country’s blasphemy law.
Qadri, feted as a hero by some sections, was hanged on February 29 in what analysts described as a key moment in Pakistan’s long fight against militancy, saying it demonstrated the government’s resolve to uphold the rule of law rather than allow extremism to flourish.
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