PAKISTAN

At least 100 dead following Peshawar bomb blast

The death toll from a car bomb that ripped through a market in Pakistan's Peshawar has risen to 105, the city's main hospital confirmed. The blast comes as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in the country for her first official visit.

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The death toll from a massive car bomb attack that ripped through a crowded market in Pakistan's Peshawar has risen to 105, the city's main hospital confirmed Thursday.

"A total of 105 people have been killed. Seventy-one of them were identified. Thirteen are children and 27 were women," Doctor Zafar Iqbal told AFP at the Lady Reading Hospital.

The list of dead was posted outside the hospital. An intelligence official in Peshawar also confirmed the same death toll.

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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 bodies 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 Afghanistan 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.

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