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Asia-pacific

Deadly blast rips through Peshawar as Clinton begins visit

Video by Nicolas Germain , Sonia DRIDI

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-10-30

A car bomb exploded in a crowded market in the north-western city of Peshawar, killing at least 90 people, as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began a three-day visit to Pakistan to discuss the worsening security situation in the country.

A car bomb ripped through a busy marketplace in Pakistan’s north-western city of Peshawar, killing dozens of people. The attack came hours after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had landed in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad in a bid to strengthen bi-lateral relations.

The blast, the deadliest to hit Pakistan this year, went off in the crowded Peepal Mandi market street killing at least 90 people and injuring another 200.

The attack brought down many buildings, setting some on fire. Flames reached out of burning wreckage and smoke billowed over the collapsed buildings as rescue workers picked charred bodies out of smouldering debris. Many victims are still trapped under the rubble.

Doctors at the city’s Lady Reading Hospital said victims were mostly women and children.

“There’s a lot of commotion right now,” Dr. Muslim Khan of the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar told AFP. “I have seen amputated limbs, severe burns, unidentifiable bodes and all sorts of injuries”.

The explosion left a huge flaming crater with billowing smoke in the middle of the marketplace.

FRANCE 24 correspondent in Islamabad, Anne-Isabelle Tollet, said the death toll was “getting higher every minute”.


No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack but the suspicion immediately fell on Pakistani Taliban insurgents, who have claimed a string of attacks across Pakistan in recent weeks.


“We have witnessed a huge surge in violence throughout Pakistan in recent weeks”, explains Anne-Isabelle Tollet. “The Taliban’s goal is to force the government to halt its offensive in South Waziristan,” she said, referring to the troubled tribal zone between Afghansitan and Pakistan where the army is trying to flush out Pakistani Taliban militants.

Hillary Clinton’s first official visit

The blast comes as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in the country for her first official visit. She is the most senior US official to visit the nuclear-armed Muslim state since US President Barack Obama put Pakistan at the heart of the fight against al Qaeda and made the war in neighbouring Afghanistan a top priority.


Clinton told reporters travelling with her: "We are turning a page on what in the last few years has primarily been a security anti-terrorist agenda. It remains a very high priority. But we also recognise that it's imperative that we broaden our engagement with Pakistan”.


The US secretary of state is accompanied by Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.


 

Date created : 2009-10-28

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