PESHAWAR: At least 13 cinemagoers were killed and 24 others wounded in three grenade explosions during an afternoon show at a cinema in the city, police and rescuers said on Tuesday.
“Some 10 people were killed in three back-to-back hand-grenade explosions in Shama Cinema,” Peshawar police chief Ijaz Khan told reporters. It is the second such attack on a cinema in Peshawar in nine days. One hand grenade was hurled in the front row of the theatre, the second in the middle and the third in back rows, Ijaz Khan said, adding the grenades were China-made.
The Peshawar police chief said all cinemas were directed to increase security measures following the February 2 explosions inside the Picture House Cinema. The wounded cinemagoers were taken to the Lady Reading Hospital where a state of emergency was declared. The hospital launched an appeal for blood donation for the wounded people. Around 100 to 150 people were present inside the cinema at the time of the attack, according to the cinema management.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Eng Shaukatullah condemned the attack and expressed deep shock and sorrow over the loss of lives. “The blasts are a highly inhuman act of terrorism.” No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. The attack came as negotiators representing the government and Taliban militants met for a second time as part of efforts to end the bloody seven-year rebellion. After the meeting in Islamabad the chief negotiator for the Taliban, Maulana Samiul Haq, said the two sides had proposed a ceasefire “to make the atmosphere for talks more conducive”. Peshawar city police chief Mohammad Ijaz Ahmed said three grenades were used in the attack and up to 80 people were in the Shama cinema at the time.
The cinema is known for showing explicit erotic movies as well as regular films. A statement from Lady Reading Hospital said 12 men were killed in the attack, including two Afghans, and 24 were wounded. Scraps of human flesh, blood-soaked shoes, caps and condoms littered the floor of the hall after the blasts, an AFP reporter at the scene said. Akbar Khan, 62, whose left arm and left thigh were injured, told AFP from his hospital bed that he was watching a pornographic movie when a deafening blast rocked the auditorium.
“It seemed like a hot iron rod pierced through my left arm and leg as I was hit by ball bearings,” he said. “I ran towards the gate, from where I was taken to hospital.” The Shama cinema has been in business for more than 30 years. It has been attacked twice before, but Tuesday was the first bombing. Tuesday’s attack bears striking similarities to one on the Picture House cinema on February 2, when two grenades were thrown into the auditorium. Four people were killed and 31 injured.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) denied responsibility for Tuesday’s attack - as they denied the earlier one – but it will nevertheless fuel scepticism about the talks’ chances of success. There are fears that the movement, a fractious coalition of militant groups, could be splintering over the talks initiative, undermining the process.
As news of Tuesday’s cinema attack was emerging, the heads of the government and TTP negotiators held a press conference giving a positive account of their meeting. Lead government negotiator Irfan Siddiqui said they hoped to make “positive movement” in the coming days. Haq, whose fellow negotiators met TTP leaders over the weekend, said the Taliban had “shown a great deal of prudence and maturity”. “Both sides have proposed a ceasefire to make the atmosphere for talks more conducive,” he said.
On Monday a TTP commander set tough terms for making progress in the talks, insisting on the release of all imprisoned fighters and the withdrawal of troops from tribal areas. There has been widespread scepticism about the chances of success, particularly since regional deals have quickly broken down in the past. Meanwhile, a policeman was reportedly killed and another wounded when a polio team was attacked in Dera Ismail Khan on Tuesday. The two policemen were assigned to the vaccination team working in DI Khan’s Purwa Tehsil, local media personnel reported.
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