The Taliban on Sunday denied responsibility for two explosions that rocked the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar, killing at least 34 people and wounding about 100, according to Voice of America. A spokesman for the group, Ehsanullah Ehsan, called reporters in the North Waziristan tribal region to deny involvement:
He said, "We do not target civilians and mosques. Our targets are security forces fighting with the United States."
The bombings, the latest attack since Osama bin Laden's killing last month, came shortly after US CIA director Leon Panetta confronted Pakistani intelligence officials in Islamabad with what the US believes is evidence pointing to collusion with militants, according to the New York Times.
Peshawar, the capital of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region which borders Afghanistan and the surrounding region, has been hit by a massive wave of violence in recent months, CNN reported. The explosions on Saturday, in which a small blast preceded a much bigger one, occurred near a building that houses newspaper offices and apartments, at a time when a large number of people were eating in restaurants in the area, according to Reuters.
The blasts, one of which was caused by a suicide bomber, went off minutes apart just after midnight, the New York Times reported:
The first explosion was relatively small and drew police and rescue workers to the site, said Dost Mohammed, a senior local police official. A few minutes later, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle set off a large bomb, causing the fatalities and injuring 98 people, 18 critically, said Rahim Jan, a senior doctor at a local hospital.
According to the Telegraph, Sajid Ali, who was in a building near the blast, described the scene:
“When the blast occurred, smoke spread through our entire flat. We covered our faces with towels and fled from the building. Seven or eight minutes later there was a another blast; it was extremely powerful. Fire spread so quickly that it engulfed everything within minutes. Nearly 30 - 34 people were killed."
While on his unannounced visit to Islamabad on Friday, Panetta confronted Pakistani intelligence officials with what the US believes is evidence of collusion between Pakistani security officials and militants staging attacks in Afghanistan, an American counterterrorism official said Saturday, according to the New York Times.
Panetta met with the leader of the Pakistani intelligence service, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, to show him satellite photographs and other evidence of what the CIA believes are two facilities, located in the northwestern districts of North and South Waziristan, where bombs are manufactured for use by militants based in Pakistan against American forces in Afghanistan, the official said.
According to Time magazine, which cited unidentified sources familiar with the discussions, Panetta showed the Pakistani general a 10-minute edited video that showed the militants evacuating the two bomb facilities in Waziristan. Panetta alleged that the militants were tipped off within 24 hours of the US sharing information on the facilities with the Pakistanis, Time reported, citing the sources. When Pakistani troops arrived at the bomb factories, the militants were gone. The CIA believed that elements inside the Pakistani security forces had tipped off the the militants that they would be targeted, the sources said.