Twin suicide attacks rocked a busy marketplace in northwest Pakistan on Friday killing at least 41 people and injuring more than 150 others, officials said, in the deadliest attack to hit the country during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
The explosions at the bazaar in Parachinar, the main town of Kurram tribal district on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, sent handcarts flying as shoppers bought food to open their fasts at sunset.
“We can confirm the death of 41 people in the twin blasts. More than 150 others have been injured in the attack,” doctor Sabir Hussein, head of the main public hospital in the town told AFP.
“We have sent 20 critically wounded people to major hospitals in Peshawar and Kohat to save their lives,” he added.
Parachinar administration officials said both blasts were carried out by suicide bombers.
“There were two blasts in the main bazaar of Parachinar. These were carried out by two suicide bombers who walked into the crowded market,” Riaz Mehsud, a senior administration official, told AFP.
Mehsud said the market was packed with people and that handcarts were sent flying after the blasts, which also damaged up to 15 shops and two cars.
“We found many body parts, including parts of the suicide bombers. There was blood and human flesh at the blasts site,” he said.
The bombers struck in a largely Shiite Muslim area but officials said they could not immediately identify the victims.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but attacks waged by Sunni Muslim extremists against Pakistan’s minority Shiite community are on the rise.
“Many bodies can’t be identified because they have been mutilated very badly,” Salahuddin, a health technician at the hospital, told AFP.
He said lists of the dead and injured were still being drafted, adding “I fear that the number of the dead and wounded people from this attack may rise.”
Kurram is frequently the scene of sectarian violence between Pakistan’s Sunni Muslim majority and Shiite minority.
Shiites account for 20% of the 180 million population in the nuclear-armed state.
Friday’s attacks come two days after suicide gunmen and car bombers attacked a government complex housing offices of Pakistan’s top intelligence agency in the southern town of Sukkur.
The ensuing shootout late on Wednesday killed nine people, including five attackers and four police and intelligence officials.
Pakistan is battling a Taliban-led domestic insurgency that has killed thousands of civilians and security personnel since 2007.
Washington considers the country’s tribal areas a major hub of Taliban and al Qaeda militants plotting attacks on the West and in Afghanistan.
Tackling homegrown Islamist militancy is one of the major tasks for the government – more than 6,000 people have died in attacks in Pakistan in the past six years according to an AFP tally.