|The wounded, at least five in critical condition, were rushed to Peshawar’s main Lady Reading Hospital [AFP]|
At least 15 people have been killed after a bomb exploded at a funeral in the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar, local police officials say.
The blast took place in the Badaber area, on the outskirts of the city, which is the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, senior police officer Kalam Khan told the AFP news agency.
The explosion occurred after mourners had offered prayers for a local woman.
“It was a suicide attack, we have found the head and legs of the bomber,” he said. Imtiaz Altaf, the police chief for Peshawar, confirmed that initial investigations indicated that a suicide bombing had taken place, and that eight kilograms of explosives had been used in the blast.
Abid Rehman, a police officer, said the attacker appeared to have gained access to the inside of the house where the funeral prayers had taken place.
At least 37 people are reported to be wounded in the attack.
“We received nine bodies from the blast site and six died later in the hospital,” Rahim Jan, a doctor at the Lady Reading Hospital where the injured were being treated, said. He said that many of those in the hospital were in serious condition.
Local politician targeted
Rehman told the Associated Press that the blast appeared to have been targeting Khushdil Khan, the deputy speaker of the provincial assembly, who has been critical of armed anti-state groups in the past.
Khan, who belongs to the secular Awami National Party (ANP), escaped unhurt, the police officer said.
The site of blast was littered with human limbs and trails of blood soon after the bombing, witnesses said.
“We lifted the coffin and headed towards the graveyard after the prayers when a huge blast was heard,” said Saddam Hussain, 21. “There were body parts and blood stains. People were crying for help.
“There was no doctor and no ambulance. People who had come to attend the funeral put the casualties in their cars and rushed to the hospital. I myself put one wounded man in a car heading to the hospital,” Hussain told AFP.
“We are devastated,” said Zahir Khan, 32, weeping while lying in a hospital bed. His elder brother died in the attack.
“I never knew I was going to lose my brother forever.”
Taliban claim responsibility
Peshawar, a city of about 2.5 million people, has long been at the frontline of violence between the Pakistani state and fighters allied with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
The Awami National Party controls the provincial government, and its leaders have been targetted by the TTP several times in the past, as revenge for the ANP’s support for military operations against them.
Muhmammad Afridi, a spokesman for the TTP in the Khyber and Orakzai tribal areas, said that his group claimed responsibility for the attack, adding that Khan and members of a local anti-Taliban militia were the intended targets.
“We will continue to lodge attacks as these people are creating hurdles in our cause,” said Afridi.
In the aftermath of the bombing, Khan, the ANP member, expressed his party’s resolve to continue the fight against militancy. “It is a fight for the country’s survival,” he said.
“How is attacking a funeral Islamic in any way?” Asfanyar Wali Khan, the head of the ANP, told reporters in Islamabad after the attack.
“I say that these people aren’t Islam’s followers,” he added. “I don’t even consider them human.”