At least 24 people were killed and over 42 injured when a powerful car bomb ripped through a crowded market in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, the latest in a string of deadly attacks across the country amid a major army offensive against the Taliban in the restive tribal belt.
The blast occurred in Farooq-e-Azam Chowk, the main commercial area in Charsadda town, shortly after 4.20 pm local time.
The area was crowded at the time of the explosion, which was the third consecutive attack in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) since Sunday. Witnesses said the bomb was planted in a car.
Talking to Geo News, Dr Manzoorullah said at least 24 people were killed in the blast. The hospital sources said at least 20 bodies were brought to Charsadda hospital.
According to police sources, an explosive-laden car was used for the blast. The blast was so power that the windowpanes of nearby buildings broke.
A witness said he had seen several injured elderly persons and school children whose clothes were stained with blood.
Police cordoned off the area as local residents and rescue service workers rushed the injured to hospitals in Charsadda and Peshawar. An emergency was declared in hospitals in both cities.
Dozens of shops and residential buildings and several cars were devastated by the blast. The windows of the office of Geo News channel were blown out by the blast.
Rescue workers said they feared several people could still be buried in the rubble of shops that had collapsed.
Footage on television showed that several shops, most of them restaurants, were completely destroyed by the blast.
Charsadda is located at the crossroads between major cities of NWFP, including the provincial capital of Peshawar and Mardan, and the tribal belt and a lot of traffic passes through the market that was targeted in the attack.
The attack was the latest in a string of strikes that have killed more than 300 people over the past six weeks in the country. A late October blast in Peshawar had killed around 120 people in the deadliest attack to hit the country since 2007.
Tuesday's blast came amid a major army offensive against the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan, which was launched on October 17. Fifteen people were killed in two suicide attacks on the outskirts of Peshawar over the past two days.
The military says nearly 490 militants and some 44 soldiers have died so far in fighting in South Waziristan, though these figures cannot be independently verified as reporters have no access to the conflict zone. PTI