By Hussain Afzal
and Rebecca Santana
PARACHINAR, PAKISTAN: Two bombs exploded in a busy market area Friday night in northern Pakistan, tearing through crowds of shoppers and killing 23 people, a doctor said.
The blasts struck as shoppers were grabbing last-minute items to break their daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan in the town of Parachinar, which sits in the Kurram tribal area that borders Afghanistan to the west.
Dead bodies quickly overwhelmed Parachinar’s hospital, as more than 100 people wounded in the blasts sought medical attention, said Dr. Zahid Hussain, who works at the hospital. Hussain said the bombs, which went off in quick succession, killed 23.
“We have no place to keep the wounded,” the doctor said. “Many of them are lying on the hospital floor and on the lawn.”
The two bombs ripped through the main bazaar in Parachinar when people were doing their evening shopping before the iftar meal that breaks the day of fasting during Ramadan, police spokesman Fazal Naeem Khan said.
One bomb was believed to have been planted on a motorcycle and explosives experts were examining the site Friday night, he said.
The second bomb detonated about four minutes after the first, about 400 yards away from the initial blast, government official Javed Ali said.
One man, Said Hussain, who was in the area where the second blast struck, reported seeing a teenage boy shout “God is great!” just moments before the explosion.
“Ten people died on the spot and many were wounded,” he said. “We rushed many of the wounded to the hospital in private cars.”
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. The Kurram tribal region, like much of northwest Pakistan, has been roiled by violence for years. Taliban militants trying to overthrow the Pakistani government have carried out a vicious campaign of suicide bombings and shootings against Pakistan security forces and other targets.
Parachinar is also home to a large number of Shiite Muslims —a minority sect in Pakistan.
Many Sunni militants do not view Shiites as true Muslims, sparking repeated fatal attacks.
Violence like Friday’s explosions poses a stark challenge to the new government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Critics say Sharif’s government has struggled to articulate a plan for how they will stop the bombings and shootings that happen regularly in the mountainous tribal areas of northwestern Pakistan.
The new government also faces a challenge on the political front from the party that it ousted during the May parliamentary elections.
The Pakistan People’s Party said Friday it will boycott the upcoming presidential election, saying a decision to move the vote forward by a week deprived it of enough time to campaign.