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Asia-pacific

Peshawar car bomb kills at least 10 as troops battle Taliban

©

Video by Nicholas RUSHWORTH , Jonathan WALSH

Latest update : 2009-05-23

A car bomb killed at least 10 people and wounded 70 others in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, according to police. Peshawar has been hit recently by a spate of bombings blamed on the Taliban.

AFP - A car bomb exploded in a busy area outside a cinema in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Friday killing at least 10 people and wounding 70 others, a local minister said.

The deadly blast comes as troops battle Taliban rebels in a major ongoing operation in a valley 140 kilometres (90 miles) away, with officials saying it is likely the bomb was revenge for the offensive in Swat.

"The purpose of such type of incidents is to terrorise the masses," provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told AFP, confirming the toll and adding some of the dozens hurt were in a serious condition.

"Terrorists are the enemies of humanity and they will never succeed in their ulterior motives," Hussain said after visiting the injured in hospital, adding "it could be a reaction (to the) Swat operation."

"The culprits will be punished at any cost," he said.

An AFP reporter said he saw six bodies at one hospital, as medics tried to frantically treat scores more who had been hurt.

"I have counted six bodies, while the number of wounded is more than 70," police official Mohammad Gul told AFP at the main Lady Reading hospital.

The bomb badly damaged the cinema and destroyed up to 10 nearby shops, witness Mohammad Riaz told AFP, the sound of the blast reverberating around the capital of North West Frontier Province, close to Afghanistan.

Television footage showed smoke and flames rising from the blast site -- also close to a bustling marketplace -- as rescuers and firefighters rushed to help the injured and put the blaze out.

"Up to 65 kilograms (140 pounds) of explosives were used in the car bomb," bomb disposal squad chief Shafqat Malik told AFP.

"It was an improvised explosive device fitted with a timer and contained high quality explosives just like TNT and mortars," Malik said, adding that it was similar to a bomb that went off on Saturday, killing a dozen people.

Another police official said the bombers had intended to hit the movie theatre.

"The target was the cinema as the car was parked in front of its main gate," Peshawar police chief Safwat Ghayur told reporters.

"The elements who are against obscenity and vulgarity are behind the blast," he said -- a reference to Taliban militants who have blown up music and video shops in past, declaring them "unIslamic".

Peshawar has been hit by a wave of bombings in recent years blamed on Taliban militants.

The city is the gateway to Pakistan's troubled tribal belt on the Afghan border, where the United States says Taliban and Al-Qaeda extremists have carved out safe havens to plot new attacks on the West.

Desperate families have sought shelter in Peshawar after escaping the military offensive against Taliban militants in Swat and nearby areas.

There, Pakistan's military said Friday that its troops killed 17 militants during fighting to stop the rebels encroaching further into the country.

Washington, which has backed the offensive, has put Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan at the heart of its 'war on terror' and warned militants pose a threat to Pakistan's very existence.

About 30 minutes after the bomb went off, suspected militants also fired a grenade at a police post about three miles away from the cinema, a police officer said, but it caused no deaths or injuries.

 

Date created : 2009-05-22

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