A bomb left in a crowded market in northern Pakistan killed as many as 35 people and injured another 40 on Tuesday. No group claimed immediate responsibility, but it was believed the blast was intended to target anti-Taliban militiamen.
The bomb was planted in a pick-up truck that was parked at a bus stop by the market in Jamrud, one of the main towns in the restive Khyber region of northwest Pakistan, the Hindustani Times reported.
The blast damaged a nearby petrol station setting off a massive fireball. "People were burning," shopkeeper Sharif Gul told the Associated Press. “There was nothing to put out the fire.”
Pakistan’s Nation newspaper carried images showing a large area of buildings flattened by the blast.
This was Pakistan’s bloodiest attack since a suicide bomber killed 40 people at a mosque, also in Jamrud, last August. Jamrud has been the target of several other major blasts in recent years.
The BBC's M Ilyas Khan said the Jamrud area is dominated by the Kukikhel branch of the Afridi tribe, who have organized a militia to fight a local faction of the Taliban.
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Reports suggest members of the anti-Taliban militia were in the vicinity when the blast took place, suggesting they were the likely target. China’s Xinhua news agency reported that three paramilitary soldiers were among today’s dead.
Pakistan's military has supported the formation of anti-Taliban militias in the region, but insurgents have ruthlessly attacked these groups. Many of the country’s bloodiest bombings in the past two years have been against anti-Taliban militia members or their families, said AP.
The Huffington Post noted that Pakistan’s last major bombing targeted the funeral of a tribal elder opposed to the Taliban. That attack killed 31 people in September close to the Swat Valley.
On Monday, 10 paramilitary troops, who had been abducted late last year, were found shot dead in neighboring Orakzai region.