Six people were killed and about 70 injured after two bombs exploded in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, just hours after the Taliban claimed responsibility for an earlier attack in Lahore and warned of a new wave of violence.
The devices, planted on motorbikes, exploded in the Storytellers Bazaar, a crowded market area of the city. Police were reported to have chased after the suspected militants through the narrow alleyways of the old quarter. Later, gunmen on rooftops began shooting down on officers who returned fire. "Two terrorists have been killed but the operation is continuing," city police chief Sifwat Ghayyur told reporters afterwards. "We're carrying out searches as others could be hiding."
The Peshawar attack came the day after 24 people were killed – among them police and intelligence officers – after a gun and bomb assault on the city of Lahore. Yesterday, Hakimullah Mehsud, a commander of the Pakistan Taliban loyal to leader Baitullah Mehsud, claimed responsibility for that attack and said it had been carried out in revenge for the ongoing military operation to force militants out of the Swat valley. He warned of more strikes to come.
"We have achieved our target. We were looking at this target for a long time. It was a reaction to the Swat operation," he told Reuters. "We want the people of Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Multan to leave those cities as we plan major attacks against government facilities in coming days."
On Wednesday, the Pakistani military released what it said was a tape of an intercepted phone call between the Taliban's spokesman in Swat, Muslim Khan, and an unidentified militant, in which he urges revenge attacks. "There's a need for them to strike soldiers in Punjab so they can understand and feel pain," the spokesman says on the tape, aired on Pakistani television. "Strikes should be carried out on their homes so their kids get killed and then they'll realise."
The bomb blast in Lahore was the third major incident in the Punjab capital this year. In March, militants attacked a coach carrying members of the Sri Lankan cricket team and later that month, a group of gunmen stormed a police training academy and killed at least eight cadets and guards. Commanders loyal to Baitullah Mehsud also claimed responsibility for the police academy attack, raising the disturbing prospect of a link between militants based in the tribal areas and those from Punjab, who were also said to have been involved in the incident.
The military operation to drive the Taliban from Swat and nearby areas has forced at least 2 million people from their homes.