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Blast Kills 22, Wounds 50 in Pakistan  01/21 09:59

   PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -- A bomb exploded Saturday in a market in a 
northwest tribal region that borders Afghanistan, killing 22 people and 
wounding at least 50, officials said.

   Dr. Sabir Hussain at the main hospital in Parachinar, the capital of 
Pakistan's Kurram tribal region, said two more wounded victims died in the 
hospital, increasing the death toll.

   Shahid Khan, an assistant tribal administrator, said the explosion took 
place when the market was crowded with retailers buying fruits and vegetables 
from a wholesale shop. He said the attack was being investigated.

   Lashker-e-Jhangvi, a banned sectarian militant group that has attacked 
minority Shiites Muslims in the past, claimed responsibility for the attack. 
The bombing took place in a predominantly Shiite area of Kurram, which has seen 
attack by Sunni militants who have hideouts there. Shiites are a minority in 
Pakistan.

   "That was our combined work with Shahryar group of Mahsud Taliban," Ali 
Sufyan, a spokesman for the banned group, wrote in a text message to an AP 
reporter.

   Kurram has been the scene of increased militant activities in recent years 
and the Army carried out a massive operation against extremists in the region 
but they still have the capacity to strike.

   Khan said some of the wounded were airlifted to hospitals in Peshawar, the 
capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Hospitals in tribal 
regions and rural areas of Pakistan typically are not equipped to handle such 
emergencies.

   Khan said the number of wounded increased but they include those who 
sustained minor injuries. He also said the death the toll had increased to 22.

   Ashiq Hussain, who was lightly wounded, was being treated in Parachinar 
hospital. He said he was among the people purchasing fruits and vegetables 
loaded on a van when the explosion took place. "There was a big bang and I saw 
a dark cloud of smoke and dust before passing out," he said.

   Ashiq Hussain said he saw bleeding bodies and severed limbs and heard cries 
when he came back to his senses. "I was just bleeding from my leg," he said. 
"Thank God I am alive."

   Initially, seven people were brought dead from the vegetable market blast 
site and more than 60 wounded, according to Dr. Hussain. Thirteen of the 
critically wounded died earlier while being treated, he said.

   Shiite leader Faqir Hussain said all the bodies were brought to a Shiite 
mosque.

   Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, the provincial governor, told local Geo television that 
the remnants of militant groups targeted by security forces were trying to show 
their existence by such attacks.

   "Terrorists largely eliminated by our security forces and the remaining will 
soon meet their fate if we all together rise against them," he said.


(KA)

 
 
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