Taliban denies deadly Pakistan market blasts
Pakistan's Taliban has denied responsibility for twin bomb blasts that ripped through a crowded market in the north-western city of Peshawar yesterday, killing 39 people and injuring dozens.
Pakistani paramedics treat a young injured bomb blast victim at a hospital in Peshawar.
The attack, one of the deadliest in a series to hit Pakistan since US Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden in May, devastated the Khyber Super Market district which includes a hotel, shops and student accommodation.
A small initial blast about 11:30pm local time on Saturday drew onlookers and emergency services before a second more powerful blast, believed to be from a suicide strike, detonated and was heard for miles around.
"[The] death toll has risen to 39 in the blasts as four wounded people died in hospital," said senior local police official Ijaz Khan.
Mr Khan said the explosions were just four minutes apart.
"The first blast was quite small but as people gathered close to the site of the explosion, the second one, which was real big one, went off."
Those killed included two journalists working for the English-language newspapers, Pakistan Today and The News.
Abdul Hameed Afridi, chief doctor at Peshawar's main Lady Readings hospital, confirmed the death toll and said 108 wounded were brought to the hospital overnight, with 47 of them admitted for treatment.
But the Pakistani Taliban, who have vowed to carry out attacks to avenge bin Laden's death, denied any role in the bombing and said they target only the government and military.
"We did not carry out this attack in Peshawar. It is an attempt by foreign secret agencies who are doing it to malign us," Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said via phone.
"We do not target innocent people. Our targets are very clear, we attack security forces, government and people who are siding with it."
Nearly 4,500 people have been killed across Pakistan in attacks blamed on Taliban and other Islamist extremist networks based in the nearby tribal belt since government troops stormed a radical mosque in Islamabad in 2007.
The latest Peshawar bombing badly damaged six shops and the hotel. Pieces of human flesh, along with debris including smashed crockery and broken furniture from the hotel, were scattered outside.
"The first blast was triggered by a timed device planted in the bathroom of the hotel while a suicide bomber riding a motorbike blew himself up near the hotel," said bomb disposal chief Shafqat Malik.
"We have found a head and some other body parts of the bomber from the attack site."
Television footage showed ambulances rushing to the scene and taking away the injured, as well as the bodies of the dead.
"I was parking my car near the hotel when the first blast took place. I rushed to the hotel to see nature of the explosion when the second bomb went off with a big bang," said local journalist Safiullah Mehsud.
The twin attacks came a week after Pakistan's Al Qaeda commander Ilyas Kashmiri, one of the network's most feared operational leaders, was believed to have been killed in a US drone strike in South Waziristan tribal region, near the Afghan border.
Nearby Peshawar is the gateway to Pakistan's rugged north-west tribal region, the stronghold of Taliban and Al Qaeda linked militants.