9 dead as bus attacked near Peshawar
* Victims include a woman, children g Four to five kilogrammes of highly explosive material used in the attack
PESHAWAR: A blast on a bus near Peshawar killed at least nine people on Saturday, officials said, in the latest attack to hit the northwest ahead of historic polls next month.
The explosion occurred just hours after militants blew up the election offices of an independent candidate in the North Wazirstan tribal district. “The blast took place in the moving van,” SP (Rural) Shafiullah Khan told newsmen, as paramedics and rescue workers began the clearance operation. Nine persons, including a woman and children, were among the dead, while eight others were injured in the attack, the police official said.
Meanwhile, senior police official Fazal Wahid told AFP that nine passengers had been killed and seven injured. “Bomb disposal officials told me that it was a timed device.”
Another officer, Imran Shahid, said the police were investigating the possibility a suicide bomber was involved in the attack, which occurred as the bus was passing through the Mattani suburb. Witnesses say the van left the terminal in the Mattani Bazaar for Sharikra shortly before the explosives went off, adding that the van’s right side was more damaged in the explosion. Police forensic experts believe the bomb was planted inside the van, or it could be magnetic.
The wounded persons were shifted to the Lady Reading Hospital where emergency was declared. A spokesman for the hospital said in a press statement that nine bodies and 10 wounded people had been received. “Five of the deceased have so far been identified.” Abdul Haq, a senior bomb disposal expert, told AFP that four to five kilogrammes of highly explosive material was used in the attack. The bomb destroyed three shops and a motorcycle, police and witnesses said. Anwar Ali, a passenger in the bus, said the blast overturned the vehicle. “I was sitting in the front seat when a powerful wave struck me and my head hit the front windscreen. I don’t know what happened after that,” Ali told AFP. Mattani has experienced such attacks on passenger vans in the past, as the small town lies on the main Peshawar-Kohat Road. These attacks had been blamed on militants operating in the Khyber tribal region who are targeting people supporting the government or rival militant groups. No group had claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack until the filing of this report. An intelligence official in the city told AFP that the attack may be a reaction to a fresh military push in the Tirah valley of the Khyber tribal district, where the army has been fighting Taliban and Lashkar-e-Islam militants. Military officials said heavy fighting between Pakistani troops and militants has killed 23 soldiers and 110 militants in Khyber this week.
Meanwhile, an explosion inside a police station damaged 15 vehicles, four houses and the building of the police station, officials said. However, no loss of life was reported. SP Shafiullah Khan said the explosion took place in ammunitions depot inside the Budhbair Police Station on main Peshawar-Kohat Road. “The explosion followed fire,” he added. staff report/agencies