Bombs tear through crowds at busy market in north Pakistan, killing 49 people

  • Article by: HUSSAIN AFZAL , Associated Press
  • Updated: July 27, 2013 - 12:00 AM

PARACHINAR, Pakistan — The death toll from a pair of overnight bombings at a busy market in northern Pakistan rose to 49 on Saturday with 10 more people dying at a hospital, officials said.

The bombings struck Friday in the town of Parachinar, which sits in the Kurram tribal area that borders Afghanistan to the west. The market was full of people hurrying to buy items for their evening meal that breaks the day-time fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

Hospital official Shabir Hussain said at least 49 people had died and 167 were wounded in the attacks.

Dead bodies quickly overwhelmed Parachinar's main hospital, as large numbers of people sought medical attention after the blasts, said Hussain, who works at the hospital. He said 25 people were listed in a critical condition.

"We have no place to keep the wounded," another doctor, Zahid Hussain, said late Friday. "Many of them are lying on the hospital floor and on the lawn."

The apparently coordinated bombs hit the main bazaar as people were doing their evening shopping before the iftar meal, police spokesman Fazal Naeem Khan said.

One bomb was believed to have been planted on a motorcycle, Khan said.

The second bomb detonated about four minutes after the first, about 400 yards (365 meters) away from the initial blast, said government official Javed Ali.

One man, Said Hussain, who was in the area where the second blast struck, reported seeing a teenage boy shout "God is great!" just moments before the explosion.

"Ten people died on the spot and many were wounded," he said. "We rushed many of the wounded to the hospital in private cars."

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

The Kurram tribal region, like much of northwest Pakistan, has been roiled by violence for years. Taliban militants trying to overthrow the Pakistani government have carried out a vicious campaign of suicide bombings and shootings against Pakistan security forces and other targets.

Parachinar is also home to a large number of Shiite Muslims, which are a minority sect in Pakistan. Many Sunni militants do not view Shiites as true Muslims, sparking repeated fatal attacks.

Violence like Friday's explosions poses a stark challenge to the new government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Critics say Sharif's government has struggled to articulate a plan for stopping the bombings and shootings that occur regularly in the mountainous tribal areas of northwestern Pakistan.

The new government also faces a challenge on the political front from the party that it ousted during the May parliamentary elections.

The Pakistan People's Party said Friday it will boycott the upcoming presidential election, saying a decision to move the vote forward by a week deprived it of enough time to campaign.

The announcement likely will have little impact on the outcome of the election, since many analysts expected the candidate nominated by the current ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, to win.

But it may signal that the PPP, still the second-largest party in parliament, is going to take a more antagonistic stance toward the PML-N. That could complicate the new government's efforts in solving many of the other problems the country faces, such as pervasive electricity shortages, a stuttering economy and a bloody Taliban insurgency.

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