Twenty people were killed and scores injured after a bomb exploded at a bustling market in Pakistan yesterday.
The blast in the city of Parachinar, near the Afghanistan border, left at least 50 people injured,
A faction of the Pakistani Taleban (TTP) had claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that its goal was “to avenge the killing of our associates”.
The group’s spokesman said it wanted to “teach a lesson to Shiites for their support for Bashar al-Assad”, referring to the Syrian president.
Unconfirmed reports suggested the blast was caused by an improvised explosive device (IED) hidden in a box of vegetables, although other reports suggested a suicide bomber was responsible.
Ashiq Hussain, who was buying fruit when the bomb went off, said: “There was a big bang and I saw a dark cloud of smoke and dust before passing out.”
When he regained consciousness, he added that he saw people bleeding and severed limbs.
Shahid Khan, an assistant tribal administrator in the city – the capital of Pakistan’s Kurram tribal region – said the explosion took place when the market was crowded with retailers buying fruit and vegetables from a wholesale shop.
Dr Sabir Hussain, a doctor at the main hospital in Parachinar, said that 11 critically wounded people were brought to the facility but died during treatment.
He said several others remained in a serious condition and were being moved to other hospitals for better care.
The bombing took place in a predominantly Shiite area of Kurram, which has been attacked in the past by Sunni militants who have hideouts there. Shiites are a minority in Pakistan.
Kurram has been the scene of increased militant activities in recent years. The army carried out a massive operation against extremists but they still have the capacity to strike.
A spokesman for the TTP warned that his Sunni Muslim group would continue attacking Shia Muslims if they back president Assad, whose regime is entrenched in a six-year civil war that has claimed more than 310,000 lives.
Shiite leader Faqir Hussain said the bodies of the victims were brought to a Shiite mosque.
Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, the provincial governor, told local Geo television that the remnants of militant groups targeted by security forces were trying to show their existence with such attacks.
“Terrorists have been largely eliminated by our security forces and the remaining will soon meet their fate if we all together rise against them,” he said.
In December 2015, an IED blast at the same market killed at least 23 people and wounded more than 30.
Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif has issued a statement expressing his grief over the latest loss of life.