PESHAWAR – A huge car bomb ripped through a crowded market in Pakistan Wednesday killing 100 people and underscoring the gravity of the extremist threat destabilizing the country.
The explosion brought down buildings in the northwestern city of Peshawar just hours after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Pakistan to bolster the two countries’ troubled alliance against Taleban and Al-Qaeda militants.
Doctors at the Lady Reading Hospital said most of the dead were women and children, as a routine day out in the city’s main bazaar ended in horror.
“Apart from the dead bodies, we have received 217 injured people. Nineteen of the dead are women and 11 are children. All the dead are civilians,” Doctor Zafar Iqbal told AFP as staff declared an emergency and called for blood donations.
Clinton expressed solidarity after one of the country’s deadliest attacks and promised every assistance. The United States stands “shoulder to shoulder” with Pakistan’s people, she said, condemning the “tenacious and brutal extremist groups who kill innocent people and terrorize communities”.
“We will give you the help that you need,” Clinton told a joint news conference with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
Flames reached out of burning wreckage and smoke billowed over the collapsed rubble of a mosque and three buildings as rescue workers fished charred bodies out of the wreckage.
Crying for help, men grabbed at the wreckage, trying to pull out survivors trapped beneath. One two-story building collapsed as firefighters doused it with water, triggering more panic.
“There was a deafening sound and I was like a blind man for a few minutes,” said Mohammad Usman, who was wounded in the shoulder. “I heard women and children crying and started to help others. There was the smell of human flesh in the air.”
As the wounded tried to flee, they were engulfed in flames and buried alive by falling masonry. With one deafening boom, a congested Pakistan street full of women and children was transformed into hell.
“It was like a massive earthquake. Everything in my shop fell on me. There was so much smoke. When everything fell on me I passed out,” clothes shop owner Ali Akbar said from his hospital bed. “It was a car bomb. Some people are still trapped in a building. We are trying to rescue them,” bomb disposal official Shafqat Malik told reporters. - Agencies