A powerful bomb ripped through a bus carrying government employees in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Wednesday, killing 17 people and injuring 47 more.
The blast, which occurred near Sunehri Masjid, targeted a bus of the Civil Secretariat that was carrying employees from Mardan, a town located 50 km from Peshawar.
Lashkar-e-Islam, a militant group allied with the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility, saying the attack was carried out to avenge a military court’s sentencing of 13 militants to death on Tuesday.
There were 40 to 50 people in the bus. Bomb disposal officials said a four-kilogram improvised explosive device filled with ball bearings had been planted near the bus’s gas cylinder.
Fear and panic spread among Peshawar residents after the explosion and the area was cordoned off. The injured were taken to the Lady Reading Hospital, where an emergency was declared.
Peshawar police chief Mubarak Zeb said the bus had begun its journey from Malakand, picking up government employees along the route. The bus, which is parked at a petrol pump during the night, leaves for duty after morning prayers.
He said the bus was privately operated and the government cannot ensure the security of such vehicles. It is the responsibility of the contractor and checks are usually carried out before the bus leaves its station, Ghani said.
This is not the first time that a bus from the Civil Secretariat has been targeted in Peshawar. Similar attacks in 2012 and 2013 killed at least 38 people.
Wednesday’s attack came days after a blast hit Charsadda’s Shabqadar area, an attack claimed by the Jamat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Taliban. The group said that attack was carried out to avenge the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer.
Peshawar has seen scores of attacks on civilians and law enforcement personnel. The city is also home to the XI Corps, an administrative corps of the Pakistan Army that manages all military activity in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and is currently engaged in a full-blown operation against militants in North Waziristan.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the attack. He expressed grief over the loss of precious lives in the attack.
“These cowardly attacks cannot shatter our unflinching resolve against terrorism,” Sharif said.
(With inputs from agencies)