Blast in Pakistan kills 15, injures 30

At least 15 people, including women and children, were killed and over 30 injured when a powerful car bomb went off at a refugee camp at Nowshera in Pakistan’s restive northwest on Thursdy, officials said.

The blast occurred shortly before noon near the administration block of the sprawling Jalozai camp, which houses both Afghan refugees and people displaced by recent fighting in the northwest.

An official in-charge of the camp told reporters that 15 people were killed. Two women and as many children were among the dead, officials said. Officials at a nearby hospital said they had received 35 injured.

Those in a serious condition were sent to Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. The blast, which was heard from several kilometres away, went off at a time when a large number of people had gathered in the area to register themselves or to collect rations distributed by relief organisations.

Officials said the explosive device was hidden in a car parked in the area.The blast destroyed several vehicles. Officials of the bomb disposal squad said an estimated 35 kg of explosives were used in the attack. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Pakistan’s northwest has witnessed a spike in militant violence ahead of the general election scheduled to be held on May 11. The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan recently suspended its offer for peace talks with the government and warned it would attack several political parties during the election campaign, including the Pakistan Peoples Party.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is stepping up an offensive to dislodge the Taliban from a key stronghold in an effort to safeguard May’s general election and crack down on militants behind a wave of attacks.

The northwestern Tirah Valley, hemmed in by steep mountains and replete with numerous caves, has offered Pakistan’s umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban a new base in the tribal district of Khyber beyond the reach of ground troops.

Long linked to the drugs trade and militia activities, with an influx of militants evicted from elsewhere, it poses a new threat to nearby Nato supply lines and to Peshawar, a city of 2.5 million and a key electoral battleground. There in Tirah, the Taliban have also formed a troubling alliance with the once hostile Lashkar-e-Islam.

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