Suicide bomber kills 18 through a bus door at a terminus near Kohat market in Pakistan
Islamabad – A teenage suicide bomber detonated his explosives near a minibus in a busy market in north-western Pakistan on Wednesday, killing at least 18 people and injuring around three dozen, police and health officials said.
The explosion took place at a bus stand next to Tirah Bazar market in Kohat district, some 70 kilometres south-west of Peshawar, the capital of the restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. This third attack in three days as the country stepped up security for the holy month of Muharram.
The bomber blew himself up in Kohat, home to at least half a million people and one of the main garrisons for the Pakistan military, in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“It was a suicide blast. The death toll has risen to 17,” Kohat police chief Dilawar Bangash told AFP, adding that 25 others were wounded, seven of them seriously.
Police said the bomber blew himself up at the door of a bus carrying passengers to the nearby tribal district of Orakzai, where Pakistan has encouraged displaced civilians to return after an anti-Taliban offensive.
“We have found the head and legs of the suicide bomber,” said Bangash. The bus terminal is in Tirah bazaar, the main market in the town.
The attack coincided with the start of Muharram, which traditionally sees tensions rise between Pakistan’s majority Sunni Muslim and minority Shia Muslim community.
The bombing came on the first day of the Muslim month of Muharram, which is theologically highly significant for Shiites mainly because of the seventh-century death of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, Imam Hussain, on the 10th day of the month.
Bashir Bilour, the senior minister in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, said ‘We will try to maximize security during Muharram – but as far as suicide bombers are concerned they can reach any place and no one really can stop them.’
He said that the public supported the government, and ‘want us to get rid of the terrorists.’
Last year on the 10th day of Muharram, which fell on December 28, a bombing targeted a Shiite procession in Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi, killing more than 40 and injuring over 100 people.
Following the blast, riots erupted in the city and angry crowds set hundreds of shops and vehicles on fire.
Taliban have also targeted government officials and rival Sunni groups.
But police said the target was not immediately clear.
“It is true there were more Shias killed in the attack but there were a number of Sunnis also who died in the blast. So we cannot say who was the target,” said Bangash, adding the suicide bomber was aged 15 to 16.