A car bomb has ripped through a market area in a northwest Pakistan tribal town near the Afghan border, killing 26 people including three children, Associated Press news agency quoted officials as saying.

Shops and vehicles were badly damaged in the morning attack in the town of Landi Kotal in the Khyber tribal region near the main border crossing point of Torkham, government administrator Khalid Mumtaz said.

Farooq Shah, a hospital official said that 26 people were killed while Mutahir Zeb, a local administration chief told AFP news agency that more than 50 people were also injured, some of them seriously.

Zeb said seven victims had died while being taken for treatment in Peshawar, the main town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The dead included three children aged nine, 10 and 12, he added.

Motor mechanic Sajidullah Khan, who was wounded in the leg, forearms and face, told AFP: "I was checking a car when I heard a huge blast nearby. I knew nothing afterwards and came to in the hospital."

Shakoor Jan, an electrician, said he was sitting in his shop when the blast rocked the whole area. "There was fire in several shops," he said.

Abu Zar Afradi, a local resident, said, "Shops caught fire and there was a lot of smoke and the situation in the area was very bad at that time."

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Islamist fighters linked to Pakistani Taliban have carried out several attacks in the area.

Arshad Khan, a local administration official, said the blast appeared to be aimed at members of the pro-government Zakha Khel tribe, who oppose a local warlord, Mangal Bagh.

"The bomb was planted in a pick-up truck parked near the bus stand," Khan said.

Six shops were gutted and several damaged in the blast, which also destroyed at least eight vehicles, he added.

Since 2007 Pakistan has been battling Taliban fighters and other armed groups in tribal areas of the country’s northwest, which has become a haven for fighters battling Afghan and international forces across the border in Afghanistan.

Bomb attacks in thre region have killed more than 5,000 people in the past five years, according to an AFP tally.

Last week a bomb ripped through a passenger bus, killing 19 people, including seven women and a child, on the outskirts of Peshawar.

Source: Agencies