A bomb blast ripped through a crowded bazaar in a mainly Shiite area of Pakistan's northwestern tribal region Sunday, killing at least 12 people and wounding dozens more, officials said. The death toll was expected to rise after the explosion at the Eidgah used-clothes market in Parachinar city, the capital of Kurram tribal district on the border with Afghanistan.
“At least 12 have died and around 50 have been injured," said Amjad Ali Khan, the political administrator of Kurram. Two senior police officials who requested anonymity confirmed the incident.
“A bomb disposal squad has reached the spot and is trying to ascertain the nature of the the blast," one of them added. Local television footage showed hundreds of male market goers fleeing the area, which was strewn with clothing and debris, as police tried to cordon off the location and ambulances rushed to the site. A doctor at the district headquarters hospital, where the wounded were taken, told AFP most of them were in critical condition and the death toll could increase.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the region is known for sectarian clashes between Sunnis and Shiites, who make up roughly 20% of Pakistan's population of 200 million. Pakistan has been battling a homegrown Islamist insurgency since 2004 that has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of civilians and security forces personnel.
Overall levels of violence have decreased this year following a nationwide military-led offensive against Islamist extremists across the country, blocking their sources of movement, communication and funding. There has also been a crackdown on Sunni extremist groups that target Shiites. In July, the leader of an anti-Shiite group behind some of Pakistan's worst sectarian atrocities was killed in a shoot-out with police, along with 13 other extremists.