Pakistan: Deadly blast hits market in Orakzai district

At least 26 killed and 55 wounded in blast that hit a busy market in a remote town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

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    An explosion has ripped through a busy marketplace in the northwestern Pakistani town of Kalaya, killing at least 26 people, officials said.

    More than 55 people were wounded when the blast occurred on Friday morning, health official Adnan Tahir told Al Jazeera by telephone from the provincial capital, Peshawar.

    It was unclear whether the explosion was caused by a suicide bomber or an improvised explosive device, local government official Mudassir Bangash told Al Jazeera.

    "Reports are still coming in, nothing is confirmed yet," Bangash told Al Jazeera by telephone.

    Abbas Khan, the assistant commissioner of the district, told the Reuters news agency that a suicide bomber had driven his motorcycle into a crowd attending a festival and market that attracts people from various religious communities.

    Earlier, the AFP news agency, citing a police official, reported that the blast was caused by an improvised explosive device placed in a carton of vegetables at the market in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

    Years of conflict

    The attack took place in the remote town of Kalaya, about 60km southwest of Peshawar. The market in Kalaya is one of the largest in Orakzai district, a remote district in Pakistan’s northwest that was, until May, governed under direct rule from Islamabad.

    Orakzai and its neighbouring tribal districts are among the least developed in Pakistan, and saw years of conflict when the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) established bases across the region as it targeted the Pakistani state.

    Violence has dropped since the launch of a series of Pakistani military operations against the TTP in 2014, but sporadic attacks continue to occur.

    No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

    The attack in the Orakzai market took place minutes after three attackers attempted to storm the Chinese consulate in the southern port city of Karachi, although the two attacks appeared to be unrelated.

    Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned both attacks in a tweet on Friday.

    Pakistan's Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari also denounced the attack, and warned that the death toll could go up. 

    "As the US fails in Afghanistan, [Pakistan should] be prepared for [a] fallout and we must ensure greater security for our tribal areas especially protection of our [people]," she tweeted.

    Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera's digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News