Powerful bomb rips through market in Pakistan, killing 25 people

At least 25 people were killed and 87 wounded Saturday when a powerful bomb ripped through a crowded vegetable market in northwestern Pakistan’s tribal region, officials said.

Eyewitnesses said the market in the town of Parachinar, near the Afghanistan border, was crowded with buyers and sellers when the blast occurred around 8:50 a.m.

Two children were among the dead, officials said.

Officials said the blast was caused by a bomb hidden in a box of vegetables. Army personnel and paramilitary troops cordoned off the area, while army helicopters evacuated the wounded to hospitals.

Two militant groups claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami, a Sunni Muslim extremist group that has links to Islamic State’s South Asia wing, said in a text message to journalists that it carried out the attack. The group was earlier blamed for a bombing at a Sufi shrine in southwestern Pakistan in November that killed 52 people, as well as a December 2015 blast in Parachinar that killed 25.

A spokesman for a splinter group of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militant federation also claimed responsibility, saying the bombing was carried out to avenge the deaths of its members at the hands of security forces.

Parachinar, the capital of the Kurram tribal district, is dominated by Shiite Muslims, whom Sunni militants view as apostates.

Loudspeakers at the town’s central mosque played appeals for blood donations.

Ali Muhammad, a tribal elder in the area, said residents had asked local authorities to provide more helicopters to evacuate the critically wounded persons to cities, but cloudy weather could have delayed the evacuations.

“We are anxiously waiting for the helicopters,” Muhammad said.

Muhammad said at least six bodies had been brought to the town hospital and another 14 bodies were in the main Shiite community center.

“Some bodies were charred and beyond identification,” he said.

Muhammad Mehtab, a local trader who received minor injuries, said that he was speaking with customers when the blast occurred. His brother, standing nearby, was unhurt, he said.

 “The explosion was so forceful,” Mehtab said. “It blew me away about seven feet.”

Ali is a special correspondent. Times staff writer Shashank Bengali contributed to this report from Mumbai, India.

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UPDATES:

10:25 a.m.: This article was updated with a revised casualty count of 25 dead and 87 wounded and a second claim of responsibility.

6:45 a.m.: This article was updated with staff reporting and claim of responsibility.

3:55 a.m.: This article was updated with a revised death toll of 22.

12:45 a.m.: This article was updated with a revised death toll of 20 and a claim of responsibility.

This article was first published at 11:50 p.m.

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