ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – A suicide car bomb tore through a bustling market in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Friday, killing at least 49 people in what appeared to be the Pakistani Taliban’s latest broadside against a government that says it is preparing a significant military offensive against the militants.
The explosion, which also injured more than 100 people, occurred at the Khyber Bazaar in the capital of Pakistan’s violence-racked North-West Frontier Province.
Though there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, Pakistani officials said they believed it was the work of the Pakistani Taliban. The militant group has vowed to ratchet up suicide attacks in response to the Pakistani government’s preparations for an all-out offensive in South Waziristan, a primary base of operations for the Taliban and al-Qaida.
Speaking in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the blast in Peshawar is “a reminder that the Taliban need to be dealt with severely.”
“All roads lead to Waziristan,” Malik said. “Any operation in Waziristan shouldn’t be delayed anymore. We think we should launch a full-fledged offensive very soon.”
Friday’s attack hit a crowded market. The assailant drove his car through the bazaar and set off about 110 pounds of explosives, said Shafqat Malik, a police bomb squad specialist. The blast ripped through market stalls and nearby buildings, scorching and flipping over a passing minibus filled with people. Many of the dead were found in the charred vehicle.