The attack took place at the busy bus terminal in the main Tirah bazaar where a passenger bus was readying to leave for the Orakzai Agency (a section of Pakistan that is a stronghold of the Taliban), said Kohat police Chief Dilawar Bangash.
While talking to media, the Kohat police chief also reported that the suicide bomb carried more than 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of explosive material and that the suicide bomber appeared to be about 17 years old and from the tribal areas. Earlier it appeared that the bomb was installed in a vehicle parked at the main bus stand, but Bangash said, "Now we have found the head and legs of the suicide bomber." The body of the suicide bomber was shifted to the hospital for a post mortem under the guard of security forces.
Security in the area was stepped up to prevent any other terror attempt, and a search operation was launched for capturing suspected handlers of the suicide bomber, added the Kohat police chief.
Local police spokesman Fazal Naeem informed the media that the bomber accessed the door of a bus carrying passengers and detonated his explosives. While sharing with media, witness Iftikhar khan said: “The bus, which was filled with passengers, was about to take off when a teenage boy came near the door of the bus and blew himself up.”
“The women and children [were] the target of a suicidal blast in the bus stand,” District Coordination Officer Kohat Shahidullah told a gathering of media.
According to details, the blast also damaged 32 shops in the commercial market and dozens of vehicles.
Soon after the blast, security forces arrived at the spot and cordoned off the area, while rescue teams also shifted the deceased and injured people to the nearby civil hospital.
The “medical condition is very severe of the injured people admitted to the hospital and the death toll may increase,” the senior doctor of the hospital told media.
The Tahreek Taliban Pakistan movement, which is linked to al-Qaeda, claimed the blame for the suicide attack at the bus stand and also for another attack two days previously at Ghalanai, a blast that killed at least 40 people.
Sources told The New American that the suicide attack by the Tahreek Taliban is a message to the government that they can still damage the infrastructure. Pakistan is trying its best to provide security for its citizens, but it is limited to big cities such as Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad. The government is installing scanners and CCTV cameras on sensitive places such as airports, entrance and exit points of cities, and sensitive buildings like the parliament house, Supreme Court, and such other buildings.
Security officials have also installed barricades on the roads where police and law enforcement agencies check vehicles. Security officials also have modern equipment for body scanning. Federal and provincial governments also conduct search operations based on the secret information of spy agencies. Security forces, approximately on a daily basis, conduct search operations as they get information about any suspected element hidden anywhere. Sometimes law enforcement agencies succeed in capturing militants, and sometimes they fail in their aims. Yet the terrorist attacks go on. Around 4,000 people have died in suicide and bomb attacks across Pakistan since government forces raided an extremist mosque in Islamabad in 2007.
The two recent attacks took place because Taliban leaders received information that the tribal militias would be strengthened by the government to help the government fight against militants, sources added.
Local people protested against the attack and demanded action against the militants who had shattered the peace of the country. The people were also holding banners demanding the resignation of Federal Interior Minister Rahman Malik because they blame him for failing to control the suicide attacks.
Federal and provincial governments have announced medical assistance for injured people and financial aid for the heirs of those killed in the attack.
President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemned the suicide attack and expressed condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the cowardly terrorist act.
President Zardari said that the government and the people are determined to defeat terrorism and that such gruesome acts cannot deter the resolve of the nation, which remains united to defeat terrorists. Only a small percentage of the religious hard core people support the activities of the Taliban. People largely believe in democracy, and people think that if the Taliban wants to rule then the Taliban should surrender and contest the elections. If the Taliban succeeds in the elections, then they have right to rule the country by their own laws.
President Zardari asked the law enforcement agencies to take stern measures to protect the people from incidents of terrorists.
Muhammad Zamir Assadi is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Photo: AP Images