Suicide car bomb kills 41, wounds 100 in Pakistan

Suicide car bomb kills 4

A suicide bomber detonated his vehicle near a crowded market in Pakistan's northwest city of Peshawar on Friday, killing 41 people. The government responded by saying it had "no other option" but to launch an offensive in the militant stronghold of South Waziristan along the Afghan border. The attack in the Khyber Bazaar area also wounded more than 100 people and demonstrated the ability of insurgents to strike in Pakistan's major cities despite ongoing operations pressuring their networks and the death of their leader in a US missile strike. The charred skeleton of a bus flipped on its side in the middle of the road, while the remains of a twisted motorbike lay nearby, TV footage showed. Passersby rushed to cover the bodies of victims whose clothes were burned off, while a man carried a woman apparently knocked out by the blast. One man staggered from the scene, his entire face covered with blood. "I saw a blood soaked leg landing close to me," said Noor Alam, who suffered wounds on his legs and face and was at the overwhelmed Lady Reading hospital. "I understood for the first time in my life what a doomsday would look like." Peshawar Police Chief Liaqat Ali Khan said the attacker was in a car packed with "a huge quantity of explosives and artillery rounds." A minibus apparently carrying passengers nearby was also leveled in the blast. It came days after a suicide attack killed five at a U.N. office in the capital, Islamabad and two weeks after another explosion killed 11 in a Peshawar commercial area. Provincial Health Minister Syed Zahir Ali Shah said 41 people were killed and more than 100 wounded Friday. It was the deadliest attack in Pakistan since a suicide bomber demolished a packed mosque near the northwestern town of Jamrud in March, killing about 50. "Death has to come one day, but we will keep chasing these terrorists, and this attack cannot deter our resolve," Provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said as he visited the bloody scene. The militants have threatened bombings if the army doesn't back off, but the U.S. has continued to prod Pakistan to take action against insurgents using its soil to fuel the insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan. The army has confirmed it is prepared to launch a major offensive in South Waziristan, a region along the Afghan border that many consider the fountainhead of suicide attacks and other militant activity in Pakistan. It has not given a date for the launch. "We have no other option but to carry out an operation in South Waziristan," Interior Minister Rehman Malik told a local television station after the attack Friday. "All roads are leading to South Waziristan. We will have to proceed." The U.S. has pushed Pakistan to clear militant strongholds, saying many of those insurgents are involved in attacks on American and NATO troops across the border in Afghanistan. U.S. missile strikes have frequently targeted hideouts in Pakistan. One in August killed Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud. The group has since named a new leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, and threatened suicide attacks if the army doesn't back off. Malik also said that a suspect had been arrested in Monday's suicide attack at the office of the U.N.'s World Food Program in Islamabad. He said the man was alleged to have given the attacker shelter, but gave few details. Meanwhile, militants in Pakistan ambushed a tanker carrying fuel for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan at a gas station near Peshawar, torching it, said Fazal Rabi, a police official. No deaths or injuries were reported. The attacks come amid growing tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan over a multibillion-dollar U.S. aid package that is aimed at helping Pakistan's economy and other nonmilitary sectors. Pakistan's army has raised concern over strings attached to the aid, bolstering critics who say it will invite U.S. interference. The debate over the proposal also has exposed rifts between Pakistan's military and its weak civilian government. The government has hailed the package, which would provide $1.5 billion a year over the next five years. But the measure, which awaits President Barack Obama's signature, makes U.S. aid contingent on whether Pakistan's government maintains effective control over the military, among other conditions. The army, which has ruled Pakistan for around half its 62-year existence, raised "serious concern" over the conditions, while the government said nothing in it was against Pakistan's interests.