TWIN bomb blasts minutes apart have ripped through a crowded supermarket complex killing 35 people and injuring more than 80 in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar.
The attack, one of the deadliest since US Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on May 2, hit the Khyber Super Market area, which includes residential flats for students, shops, a fruit juices kiosk and a hotel.
A first explosion lured in onlookers and emergency services before a second more powerful blast, believed to be from a suicide strike, went off.
“At least 34 people were killed and more than 80 injured in the blasts,” senior local police official Ijaz Khan said.
The blasts were only four minutes apart.
Those killed included two journalists working for local English-language newspapers Pakistan Today and The News.
“The first blast was quite small but as people gathered close to the site of the explosion, the second one, which was real big one, went off,” he said.
Another senior local police official, Kalam Khan, confirmed the death toll.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility, but the Pakistani Taliban have vowed to carry out attacks to avenge the killing of al-Qa’ida leader bin Laden.
More than 4400 people have been killed across Pakistan in attacks blamed on Taliban and other Islamist extremist networks based in the nearby tribal belt since government troops stormed a radical mosque in Islamabad in 2007.
“The first blast was triggered by a timed device planted in the bathroom of the hotel while a suicide bomber riding a motorbike blew himself up near the hotel,” bomb disposal chief Shafqat Malik said.
“We have found head and some other body parts of the bomber from the attack site.”
The latest violence came hours after visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on Pakistan to eradicate militant sanctuaries at “detailed” talks about a peace process with the Taliban that inaugurated a joint peace commission.
Karzai and a raft of top aides held two days of meetings in Islamabad, just weeks after bin Laden’s death, heightening calls within the United States for a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan.
CIA chief Leon Panetta held talks on Friday with top military and intelligence officials and discussed ways to strengthen future intelligence sharing, the Pakistani military said.
The twin attack also came a week after Pakistan’s al-Qa’ida commander Ilyas Kashmiri, one of the network’s most feared operational leaders, was likely killed in a US drone strike in South Waziristan tribal region, near the Afghan border.
Peshawar is the gateway to Pakistan’s rugged northwest tribal region, which is known as the country’s premier stronghold of Taliban and al-Qa’ida-linked militants, and bomb attacks are common.