PESHAWAR, August 12 – A powerful bomb blast ripped through a Pakistan air force bus in the northwestern city of Peshawar Tuesday, killing at least 13 people and wounding another 15, police said.,
The explosion happened as the bus passed over a bridge on the outskirts of the city. An AFP photographer saw a large crater in which the mangled wreckage of the bus was lying, while the scene was spattered with blood.
"Thirteen dead bodies and 15 injured have now been brought here," Khan Abbas, a police official deployed to Peshawar’s main Lady Reading hospital, told AFP.
The vehicle was used for carrying rations and was travelling from the Badaber base to Peshawar when it was hit by the bomb at about 11:00 am (0500 GMT), a Pakistan Air Force spokesman said.
"There were some PAF civilians as well travelling in the vehicle, we are trying to ascertain exactly how many were inside," the spokesman told AFP.
"We don’t know whether it was a suicide attack or a roadside bomb."
The police chief of North West Frontier Province, Malik Naveed Khan, said the bomb appeared to have been remotely detonated.
"So far, according to my information, it was a security vehicle and an IED (improvised explosive device) was planted under the bridge," Khan said.
Investigators were seen gathering evidence and material from the blast site. Two damaged motorcycles and bicycles also lay at the scene along with scattered debris, the AFP photographer said.
Pakistani forces are currently engaged in major battles against Taliban militants in a tribal area near Peshawar, but it was not immediately clear if the attack was linked.
More than 150 people, most of them militants, have died in the clashes in the Bajaur tribal area over the past week. Air strikes killed 50 militants alone on Monday, military officials said.
Officials said that four foreign militants, a term usually used to describe Arab Al-Qaeda militants, were killed in one of the strikes in Bajaur but that their identities were still being confirmed.
The Taliban have in the past carried out bomb attacks, mainly suicide blasts, targeting security forces in revenge for military operations.
The last major attack in Pakistan was a suicide bombing on July 6 at an Islamist rally to mark the anniversary of an army raid on the radical Red Mosque in Islamabad. That blast killed 19 people.
A wave of suicide attacks over the past year and a half has killed more than 1,000 people in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s new government has been under major pressure from the United States to crack down on Taliban militants based near the border with Afghanistan.
The government has sparked concern in Washington, which regards it as a key ally in the "war on terror", by entering peace talks with the militants after winning February elections.