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Thursday, 29 October 2009

Death toll from Peshawar blast rises to 104

Extremism, whatever the historical reasons that are bent around trying to understand it and place it in our national and cultural context, now envelops all of us in a deadly and debilitating cloud. There will be the usual cries that 'those who did this are not Muslims'…but of course they were. This was not some plot hatched and executed by mad Hindus or Sikhs, this is a plot that will have been hatched within a few miles of where the blast occurred, by men who believe that their piety and vision of a Muslim future world, wherein their own paradigm will rule supreme, is best achieved by shredding the bodies of their fellow Muslims. There are groups of extremists in every province, not all coordinated by any means nor sharing the same agenda, which are steadily eroding the national morale. The government is standing fast and firm in Waziristan, but the blowback is there for us all to see every day. The forces of law and order, especially the police, are nowadays stretched beyond reasonable limits, and we should refrain from laying the blame at their door seconds after every blast or atrocity. Simply, the police are a finite resource – in every country – and those that we have here in Pakistan are poorly paid, badly equipped and often indifferently led. (We will leave aside issues relating to corruption for today.) Given that the police forces of every town and city across the land are just beginning to get to grips with the demands of securing the nations schools, their scant resources cannot be spread much thinner to provide security to every bazaar and shopping mall nationwide. There will be other blasts in the future, as there have been today and in the past. Some terrorists we will intercept, but it only needs one to get through. The blitz they inflict on us may be awful but we must show our resolve, our unwillingness to be cowed, and say 'No, you shall not pass, neither shall we give you relief….now get you hence, Beast, because this is our land, not yours. (The News, Editorial, 29 Oct 2009)

Death toll from Peshawar blast rises to 104
By Ali Hazrat Bacha
Thursday, 29 Oct, 2009 (Dawn)
Volunteers rush an injured child to a hospital after an explosion in Peshawar.—AP

PESHAWAR: At least 104 people, mostly women and children, were killed and over 150 injured when a huge car bomb ripped through a crowded market here on Wednesday.

The blast triggered a huge fire which engulfed a number of buildings near the Meena Bazaar. A plume of dust and smoke billowed from narrow lanes of the market situated in the old part of the city.

A senior intelligence official blamed terrorists based in Darra Adamkhel for the attack. ‘We intercepted a call last week in which militants were talking about a ‘heart-rending’ attack in Peshawar,’ he said.

A representative of the shopkeepers’ association said threats had been received in recent days with militants demanding that women be forbidden from going to the market.

The blast took place in two narrow lanes between Meena Bazaar and Kochi Bazaar frequented by women.

A cotton warehouse in the market caught fire which spread to several buildings on the Cheri Koban road. A number of shops along the narrow road, vehicles and carts were gutted.

Most of the bodies were charred beyond recognition and till late night only 25 of them had been identified.

Hospital sources said the death toll could rise because scores of badly burnt and injured people were in a critical condition.

‘It was a car bomb blast and over 150 kilograms of explosives were used,’ in-charge of the bomb disposal unit AIG Malik Shafqar Mahmud said.

He said that an initial investigation suggested that explosives had been detonated by remote control. The blast caused massive losses because it had taken place in a narrow and busy market, he added.

‘About 70 of the dead are women and children. Scores of the injured are in a critical condition,’ said Dr Sahib Gul, the in-charge of Trauma Centre at the Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar.

‘The blast was so huge that it jolted the entire area and within seconds plumes of smoke and dust started emitting out of a building near Al-Falah Mosque,’ Karim Khan, a shopkeeper, said.

Ezat Khan, another shopkeeper, said that parking of vehicles outside shops was not allowed, but it could not be ascertained how the driver of the explosives-laden car had managed to park it there.

Fire-engines, ambulances and other rescue vehicles faced difficulty in reaching the scene because of congestion and narrow lanes. People were seen taking the bodies and the injured to hospitals in cars, rickshaws and even on motorcycles.

A fire-fighter said that many children and women trapped in the debris of several buildings were crying for help, but rescue workers could not reach them because of huge flames.

A group of men trapped under the roof of a nearby mosque were rescued.

Rescue work was in progress till late night and workers were finding it difficult to remove the debris.

It was feared that some people were still trapped in the rubble because rescue personnel had heard them wailing and crying.

All shops in the area were closed after the blast and people started searching for their relatives.

A crowd of people inside the trauma room and emergency hall of the Lady Reading Hospital made it difficult for medical staff to perform their duty.

Distressed people, including women, were seen searching for relatives in the hospital, but recognising them was difficult because most of the bodies were mutilated. Stench of blood and human flesh hung in the air in the hospital.

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