PESHAWAR/JAMRUD: A car bomb exploded in a crowded market in Pakistan's troubled northwest tribal region near the Afghan border yesterday, killing 17 people and wounding more than 40 others, officials said.
The bomb went off in the town of Jamrud, killing or wounding people waiting for buses to take them across the northwest and to other parts of the country, according to officials.
Pools of blood and charred flesh littered the roadside, along with at least 20 burnt vehicles, said an AFP reporter. Clothes, school books, children's shoes and burqas lay everywhere.
Jamrud is in Khyber district, which is part of Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt on the Afghan border. The Taliban and other Al-Qaeda-linked groups, who stage attacks in both countries, have strongholds in the zone.
The 17 dead included five boys and two women, said Abdul Qudoos, a doctor at a local hospital in Jamrud town, where the attack occurred. At least 44 people were wounded, he said.
The explosives were packed in a small, white car that was parked in the middle of the road, blocking traffic, said Shireen Afridi, who was nearby buying a phone card when the bomb exploded.
Local TV footage showed several cars and shops in the market that were badly damaged. Residents threw buckets of water on burning vehicles as rescue workers transported the wounded to the hospital.
The market was located close to the office of the assistant political agent for Khyber, said Khan, who works in the office. Initial reports wrongly indicated the women's waiting area was for the political office, not the bus stop.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing.
Khyber is home to various militant groups, including the Pakistani Taleban, which have waged a bloody insurgency against the government for the past few years.
A Pakistani Taleban spokesman in the South Waziristan tribal area, Asim Mehsud, claimed responsibility in a telephone call to The Associated Press.
The army has carried out offensives against the Taleban in most parts of the tribal region, including Khyber, but militants continue to carry out regular attacks in the country.
On Saturday a suicide squad of five targeted the airport in Peshawar, the main northwestern city close to Jamrud, killing five civilians and blowing a hole in the perimeter wall.
Elsewhere yesterday, gunmen killed a provincial government spokesman in the southwest Pakistan in an apparent sectarian attack, and then shot to death two nearby policemen, police said.
The assault, claimed by the Pakistani Taleban, sparked prolonged gunfire and forced authorities to close the airport, a commercial hub and air force base on the edge of the tribal belt.
It was the second Islamist militant attack in four months on a military air base in nuclear-armed Pakistan.
On Sunday a policeman and five militants were killed following gun battles between security forces and militants suspected of having been involved in the airport attack, security officials said.
The government says more than 35,000 people have died due to terrorism in the country since the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
According to an AFP tally there have been more than 100 bombings, killing 550 people, so far this year, compared to 203 in 2009 when the death toll was tallied at 1,840.