By Riaz Khan Associated Press
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Two bombs, hours apart, exploded today in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, killing 23 people and underscoring the reach of militants despite successive military offensives close to the Afghan border, police said.
A suicide bomber was behind the deadliest blast, which occurred just before dusk in a crowded market area.
Police said the target was apparently officers watching over a rally by members of a political party against power cuts in the city. Police officers and protesters were among the 22 dead and more than 30 injured, said police chief Liaqat Ali Khan.
In something of an irony, the rally was being held by the Jamat-e-Islami party, an Islamist grouping that is sympathetic to many of the goals of the Taliban and regularly criticizes army operations against them.
“The terrorists are beasts,” said provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain. “Their aim is just to shed blood.”
Earlier, a bomb exploded outside a school run by a police welfare foundation, killing a young boy and wounding 10 people. The school raises money to help families of police officers. The victim were was a boy aged between 5 and 7. Five of the wounded were children.
Taliban and al-Qaida militants based in the Afghan border region — who are fighting the Pakistan police and army — have carried hundreds of attacks over the last three years. Mosques, schools and markets — typically with an association with security forces, the government or their supporters — have often been hit.
Peshawar has been one of the hardest-hit cities because it lies close to the border area.
Two blasts over the weekend in the nearby Kohat tribal region killed around 50 people, most of them refugees lining up to register for food and other aid.
Also today, suspected Taliban militants in the northwest detonated two bombs that destroyed a pair of oil tankers along a vital route used to supply NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
No one was wounded, but the fire also engulfed a flatbed truck and nearby shops in the Takhta Beg area of the Khyber tribal region, local official Iqbal Khan said.
Taliban militants and ordinary criminals frequently attack vehicles along the supply route that runs through the famed Khyber Pass into Afghanistan. The U.S. and NATO say their Afghan operations have felt limited impact, but they are establishing alternate routes.