Pakistan: Twin blasts hit Peshawar, 35 killed

The attack is one of the deadliest since US Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on May 2.

Peshawar: Twin bomb blasts minutes apart ripped through a crowded supermarket-hotel complex killing 35 people and injuring over 80 in Pakistan`s northwestern city of Peshawar late Saturday.

The attack, one of the deadliest since US Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on May 02, hit the Khyber Super Market area, which includes residential flats for students, shops, a fruit juices kiosk and a hotel.

At around 11:30 pm local time, a first explosion lured in onlookers and emergency services before a second more powerful blast, believed to be from a suicide strike, went off. The second explosion was heard for miles around.

"At least 35 people were killed and more than 80 injured in the blasts," senior local police official Ijaz Khan said, adding the explosions 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," said the official.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility, but the Pakistani Taliban have vowed to carry out attacks to avenge the killing of al Qaeda leader bin Laden.

More than 4,400 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," Malik added.

The attacks badly damaged six shops and the hotel. Crockery and furniture of the damaged hotel and pieces of human flesh were scattered outside.

Private TV channels showed ambulances zooming in and out taking away dead bodies and injured people.

"I was parking my car near the hotel when the first blast took place. I rushed to the hotel to see nature of the explosion when second bomb went off with a big bang," local journalist Safiullah Mehsud said.

Mehsud, who sustained injuries to his head and legs, said he felt his body going up in the air after the second explosion and was knocked unconscious.

Muhammad Hashim, a cameraman working for a local TV channel, said he was taking tea after dinner when the blasts occurred.

"I ran towards the hotel after the first blast and it was about that time when I saw a big fireball followed by another explosion," said Hashim, who passed out after the second attack and sustained injuries to his head and chest.

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, which heightened 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 Qaeda 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.

Nearby Peshawar is the gateway to Pakistan`s rugged northwest tribal region, which is known as the country`s premier stronghold of Taliban and al Qaeda linked militants, and bomb attacks are common.

Bureau Report