Scores killed as bomb blast rips through busy market

Bomb devastates Peshawar just hours after Hillary Clinton flies in to Pakistan

The deadliest bomb attack in Pakistan for two years tore through the city of Peshawar yesterday just hours after Hilary Clinton arrived in the country to pledge the support of the US in a fight against militants that officials are increasingly framing as a fight for the nation's survival. Women and children were said to make up the majority of those killed.

Three hours after Mrs Clinton's plane touched down for her first visit as Secretary of State, a car bomb struck a busy market in the old quarter of the northwestern city killing 96 people and wounding more than 200. The bomb, detonated amid the crowded streets of the Mina Bazaar, caused massive damage and stunned residents. People trapped in the rubble and debris cried for help as others tried to pull them free.

Emerging from a meeting in the capital, Islamabad, less than two hours drive away, a resolute-looking Mrs Clinton told reporters: "I want you to know this fight is not Pakistan's alone. These extremists are committed to destroying what is dear to us as much as they are committed to destroying that which is dear to you and to all people. So this is our struggle as well."

The bomb, the deadliest since a massive blast killed around 140 people in Karachi when former prime minister Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan in October 2007 only to die in another attack two months later, is the latest incident in an seemingly unstoppable wave of violence to have to have flooded Pakistan as government troops undertake a crucial operation against militants in South Waziristan. Almost 300 people have been killed in the last month, with the seemingly daily bombings or shootings and the ability of militants to cause large casualties triggering anxiety across the nation.

"There was a deafening sound and I was like a blind man for a few minutes," Mohammad Usman, who was wounded in the attack, told the Associated Press. "I heard women and children crying and started to help others. There was the smell of human flesh in the air."

Ahead of Ms Clinton's visit, many residents of Islamabad feared they could be the victims of another attack. As it was, militants instead struck the provincial capital of Peshawar for the third time in a month, the bomb going off in an area packed with stalls and shops selling clothes and cheap toys and subsequently popular with mothers and their children.

A reporter for the BBC's Urdu service reported harrowing scenes at the emergency rooms of Lady Reading hospital in Peshawar. There were so many casualties that beds had run out and many injured were being treated on the floor. One unattended four year old's head and legs were covered in wounds.

Ahead of the long-anticipated operation in South Waziristan, militants had warned that they would carry out targets against military and establishment targets. Yet the violence perpetrated against ordinary citizens – earlier this month another bazaar in Peshawar was attacked with 50 people killed – has left many feeling helpless and vulnerable. Across the country, ordinary citizens say they believe the violence is linked to the operation to crush Taliban and al-Qa'ida militants and yet there is little they can do to keep themselves safe.

While the operation in South Waziristan is focusing on destroying fighters loyal to the assassinated Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, so it appears the tactics of militants is to sap public support for the operation and thus halt the military. In Pakistan's cities, roadblocks and security checks have been considerably increased and yet for now it appears the militants are winning. Their tactics seem to change more rapidly than the response of the authorities.

The government says it will not be the first to blink. Appearing before reporters with Mrs Clinton, Pakistan's foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, said the wave of violence would not break the government's will. "The resolve and determination will not be shaken," he added. "People are carrying out such heinous crimes – they want to shake our resolve. We will not buckle. We will fight you. We will fight you because we want peace and stability in Pakistan."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
An iceberg in Ilulissat, Greenland; researchers have been studying the phenomena of the melting glaciers and their long-term ramifications for the rest of the world (Getty)
news
Environment
environment
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Jackman bears his claws and loses the plot in X-Men movie 'The Wolverine'
film
Arts and Entertainment
'Knowledge is power': Angelina Jolie has written about her preventive surgery
film
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing