Pakistan explosion: Peshawar market blast toll rises to 42

The attack came just one week after a deadly blast at a church in the city, as Rajesh Mirchandani reports

The death toll from Sunday's bomb blast that ripped through a historic market in the Pakistani city of Peshawar has risen to 42, hospital officials say.

Dozens were also wounded when a bomb exploded in the Kissa Khwani bazaar, setting shops and vehicles alight.

It was the third deadly blast to hit the city in a week.

Last weekend suicide blasts killed at least 81 at a church in Peshawar and on Friday, 19 people died when a bus carrying civil servants was attacked.

Peshawar, the main city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, has been hit by numerous bomb and gun attacks blamed on Taliban insurgents but it has rarely come under such sustained attack in recent years.

Analysis

The past week has been bloody even by the standards of Peshawar, which has borne the brunt of militancy in Pakistan since 2007. What's new is that the bloodshed comes amid a raging debate in the country about whether the insurgency should be met with guns or talks.

There are dozens of militant groups operating under the banner of the Pakistani Taliban (TTP). All have sanctuaries in the tribal areas near Peshawar in the north-west - some favour talks, while others don't. Many in Pakistan feel these latter groups are trying to poison the atmosphere for dialogue.

With the deadline for Nato troops to withdraw from Afghanistan fast approaching, there are indications the dominant groups in the TTP want to force Islamabad to pull Pakistani troops out of the tribal areas and recognise their fiefdoms.

Pakistan is reluctant to deal a death blow to the Taliban, a movement which observers say it feels it needs if it is to neutralise the influence of its arch-rival, India, in a post-Nato Afghanistan.

It is unclear how the three attacks are linked. A Sunni militant group with Taliban links claimed the church attack, but no group has said they carried out this latest blast.

Police said they suspected Sunday's explosion was caused by a car bomb.

A huge blast in the heart of the market set off fires that engulfed shops and vehicles.

One shop owner, Nazar Ali, told Associated Press: "It was a huge blast that was followed by fire in vehicles. Thick black smoke covered the air and splinters spread all over. I saw people lying dead and bleeding."

Among the dead were at least 14 members of the same family who were at the market making preparations for a wedding, reports said.

Rising violence has hindered new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's overtures to end the insurgency through peace talks with the Taliban.

On 21 September, Pakistan released from the jail the co-founder of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

But the Pakistan Taliban have consistently rejected the country's constitution and demand the imposition of Sharia law.

A man stands on a pile of rubble in front of a damaged building after it was hit by a bomb blast, which happened on Sunday, in Peshawar September 30, 2013. The city of Peshawar is still reeling from a week of brutal attacks that has left dozens dead
Men collect their belongings from the debris of a damaged building after it was hit by a bomb blast, which happened on Sunday, in Peshawar September 30, 2013 The latest attack, which hit a historic market, killed at least 42 people
Peshawar blast, 29 Sept Scores were hurt in addition to those killed in the blast
Peshawar blast, 29 Sept A remote-controlled car bomb was used, officials said
Peshawar blast, 29 Sept PM Nawaz Sharif said the bombing was an attack on humanity

Mr Sharif strongly condemned the Peshawar bombing. In a message from New York, where he was at the UN, he said: "Those involved in the killing of innocent people are devoid of humanity and all religions."

Map

Last Sunday's attack on the historic All Saints church - thought to be the deadliest attack against Christians in Pakistan - sparked angry protests nationwide.

Two Islamist militant groups with Taliban links said they had ordered the attack to hit back at US drone strikes.

Friday's bus bomb targeted government employees returning home in the Gulbela area, some 15km (9 miles) north-east of the city.

In addition to those killed, at least 34 people were injured.

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