(Reuters) - Fourteen people were killed in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Sunday when a powerful roadside bomb attack narrowly missed a passing convoy of security forces but ravaged a busy market area, police said.
Two paramilitary personnel riding with the convoy were wounded but the brunt of the blast was borne by passers-by in the tense Badhber neighborhood of Peshawar, a frequent scene of attacks on the police and army by Pakistan’s Taliban militants.
“The blast was so powerful that it destroyed 10 shops and eight vehicles,” said Mir Ajab Khan, the head of a police station in Badhber, where militants project considerable influence. “Many of the wounded were women and children.”
All the dead were civilians apart from a policeman. Four children and a woman were among those killed. Health officials said 25 people were wounded.
“Some of the wounded were brought in critical condition and have been shifted to an intensive care unit of the hospital,” said Mohammad Iqbal Afridi, medical superintendent of the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar.
A senior official with the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) said two of its men had been wounded.
“All the FC men remained unhurt in the attack except two who suffered injuries and were admitted to the Combined Military Hospital in Peshawar,” the official said.
A spate of attacks in Pakistan in recent weeks have underlined the challenge militancy poses to the new government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who won a landslide victory at May 11 general elections.
Before the election, Sharif said he would be willing to negotiate an end to years of fighting with the Taliban in Pakistan’s rugged tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan. But the group withdrew an offer of talks after a May 28 U.S. drone strike killed deputy leader Wali-ur-Rehman.
The group has since vowed to “teach a lesson” to Pakistan and the United States for the killing. It believes the Pakistani government cooperates with Washington on drone attacks.
Known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban have carried out many attacks against the Pakistani military and civilians. It is a separate entity to the Afghan Taliban.
Reporting by Jibran Ahmed; Writing by Matthew Green; Editing by Jeremy Laurence