Taliban bombers attacked two Shia gatherings in the insurgency-infested Northwest Frontier Province on Friday, killing 28 and wounding more than 90.
The first attack took place earlier today in the Arakzai tribal agency. A suicide bomber driving a car attempted to reach a meeting being held by Shia tribal leaders when police stopped the vehicle at a checkpoint.
“The bomber tried to drive into a market in a Shi’ite neighborhood where the meeting was taking place but blew up his car when police tried to stop him at a checkpoint,” a Pakistani intelligence official told Reuters. Seven people, including policemen, were killed in the attack.
The second attack took place outside of an assembly hall used by Shia in the provincial capital of Peshawar. A car bomb with up to 60 pounds of explosives leveled a building and severely damaged other buildings in the narrow alleyway packed with shops and homes.
“It shook the entire area like an earthquake,” a witness told Reuters as he was clearing the debris. “It was a huge and terrible explosion. As we reached here it was all burning. There was rubble all around.”
Twenty-one civilians, including three children and four women, were killed in the attack, Geo News reported. More than 20 of the wounded are said to be in critical condition.
The Pakistani military launched an operation with the intent of clearing the Taliban from the Peshawar district more than three weeks ago. In a press conference, a Pakistan Frontier Corps general touted the success of the operation, noting 25 Taliban fighters were killed and 40 captured. The operation, designed to relieve pressure on the provincial capital, was the second military offensive in Peshawar since the summer.
Despite the increased military activity in Peshawar, the security in the city and surrounding areas has deteriorated. Taliban forces are hitting NATO convoys in Peshawar regularly. The resident of the Jamrud region just west of the city of Peshawar is under Taliban control, the provincial government said.
“The government has to take action or we shall see Iraq-like situation in the area in the coming few months,” an official told Daily Times.
The Northwest Frontier Province has been rocked by bombings this week. Three security personnel and two civilians were killed in a suicide attack in Charsadda district on Dec. 3. A suicide attack in Bannu killed seven people, including a policeman, on Nov. 28.
The Pakistani military has threatened to withdraw its forces from the northwest if tensions with India rise due to the fallout from last week’s Mumbai terror assault. The Indian government accuses the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba of being behind the strike that killed 183 and shut down the city of 18 million for 62 hours.
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