- Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claims responsibility for attack targeting Shias
- PM says war to continue till complete annihilation of terrorists
- Locals complain officials, law enforcers reached blast site too late
- Three killed as law enforcers use force on protesting tribesmen
At least 23 people were killed and over 100 wounded in a car bomb explosion outside an imambargah in Parachinar – the headquarters of Kurram Agency – on Friday morning, officials said.
The explosion in the remote area bordering Afghanistan occurred as people gathered for Friday prayers near the women’s entrance of a Shia mosque.
A witness said security personnel at the imambargah were frisking devotees when an unidentified person parked a car next to the building, which then exploded.
“The attack took place in a busy area and a women’s mosque appears to be the target,” said a parliamentarian from Parachinar, Sajid Hussain.
Government administrator Zahid Hussain confirmed that Shias were apparently the target of the attack.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed the responsibility for the attack through a video message.
Ikramullah Khan, the local political agent, confirmed the death toll of the blast that took place in the crowded Noor market. The marketplace is a busy area and has several shops. It is also near one of the main imambargahs.
An army medical evacuation helicopter was also flown to Parachinar for evacuation of the injured, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.
After the terrorist assault, security forces cordoned off the area. An emergency was declared at the District Headquarters Hospital Parachinar and nearby hospitals.
“We have received 22 bodies and 57 injured, including women and children,” said a surgeon at the DHQ.
Another doctor Mumtaz Hussain said more than three dozen wounded had been brought to the hospital and an appeal had been issued for blood donors.
“Patients are being brought to us in private cars and ambulances and we have received over three dozen patients so far,” Hussain said.
Syed Shabir Hussain Sajidi, an elder of Shia community, when contacted said that almost all rescue activities were carried out by local people, complaining that officials of the civil administration and personnel of law enforcement agencies reached the blast site too late.
Syed Mohammad Konain, another elder and office-bearer of Anjuman Hussainia, said more casualties were feared and some of the injured were still in critical condition.
Witnesses said hundreds of people were present in Noor market when the explosion took place.
The explosion was so powerful that it damaged several shops and wrecked many vehicles.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack, and said the government would keep up efforts to eliminate the menace of terrorism. “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,” the premier said in a statement.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan took to twitter to condemn the blast. “(I) strongly condemn (the) blast in Parachinar, targeting innocent people,” he wrote on twitter. “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister must ensure availability of all medical facilities on emergency basis,” he added.
KP Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra strongly condemned the assault and expressed grief over the loss of lives. He directed the hospital administrations to provide best medical facilities to the victims.
He said “such cowardly attacks could not deter our determination in the fight against terrorism and elements involved in such inhuman act would be brought to justice”. Jhagra also prayed for eternal peace of the martyred and early recovery of the injured.
Soon after the explosion, Turi tribesmen, local Shias, staged a protest demonstration, but they were dispersed through use of teargas shells and batons by security officials.
A tribal elder alleged that three protesters were killed when personnel of law enforcement agencies opened fire on peaceful protesters. He said security personnel used force against civilians who were staging a peaceful protest just to denounce the failure of the government in protecting lives and properties of civilians.
Earlier in January this year, a terrorist attack, claimed by Lashkar-i-Jhangvi al-Alami along with Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) splinter Shehryar Mehsud, saw at least 25 people dead.
The army had launched Operation Raddul Fasaad in February following a spate of terror attacks in the country, which claimed more than a hundred lives and left hundreds others injured.
The operation seeks to eliminate the “residual/latent threat of terrorism”, consolidating the gains made in other military operations, and further ensuring the security of Pakistan’s borders.
Hundreds of suspected terrorists have reportedly either been killed or arrested in raids carried out by security personnel since the start of the operation.
Parachinar is 250 kilometres west of Peshawar and has a population of 50,000. In the wake of sectarian clashes in 2007 army and paramilitary forces set up several checkpoints on roads leading to the town.
Kurram, the tribal region of which Parachinar is the main town, the only part of Pakistan’s border region that has a significant Shia population, has been racked by sectarian violence.