KURRAM AGENCY - A car bomb ripped through a crowded market in Parachinar area of Kurram tribal region on Monday afternoon killing 16 people and wounding 64 others.

The explosion took place at Kashmir Chowk, a commercial locality in Parachinar area of Kurram tribal region. People were busy in routine activities at Kashmir Chowk when an explosives-laden car blasted with a bang. It is yet to be confirmed whether it was a suicide attack or an explosives-laden vehicle already parked there exploded.

Blast killed 16 people on the spot, while 64 others sustained injuries. Twenty among them, stated to be in critical condition, were referred to Peshawar for further treatment. It is feared that number of deaths might increase.

The blast was so severe that it was heard at far off places. The injured were shifted to district headquarters hospital by locals.

The blast destroyed 30 shops and damaged 50 others partially at Kashmir Chowk, a hub of commercial activities in Kurram Agency. The area plunged into darkness as blast also broken the electricity wires and downed polls. A huge crater was formed at the explosion site.

It merits mentioning here that Kurram Agency has been witnessing sectarian violence since long. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. The latest blast came a week after a suicide car bomber rammed his car into a US consulate vehicle in Peshawar last Monday killing at least two people.

It has also been learnt that most of the victims were the poor people selling vegetables and fresh fruits on their push-carts. The explosives were planted in a vehicle loaded with grapes, but it is yet to be ascertained.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor, Barrister Masood Kausar, has strongly condemned the bomb blast in Kurram Agency on Monday and expressed his deep shock and sorrow over the loss of precious lives. Soon after the blast, the governor directed the concerned authorities to arrange helicopter for shifting the injured to Peshawar to ensure best available treatment facilities for making possible their early recovery.

The terrorists involved in the heinous acts of terrorism, he said, would no more remain at large and would be brought to justice. Expressing his deep sympathies with the members of the bereaved families, the governor prayed for the eternal peace to the departed souls and courage to the bereaved families to bear the irreparable loss with patience. He also wished early recovery of the injured.

Agencies add: A senior administration official Sahibzada Mohammad Anis told AFP that explosives-laden vehicle exploded near a convoy of security forces at a market in Parachinar town of Kurram tribal district.

“The car detonated as a security convoy passed by in the Turi Market” of the town dominated by the Shia Muslim community, Anis said. It was not immediately clear if it was a suicide attack, he said, adding that an investigation was underway.

The target seemed to have been security forces’ convoy, one intelligence official said.

Anis said the site was littered with rubble, concrete slabs and twisted metal. Attacks blamed on Taliban have killed more than 5,200 people in Pakistan since government troops raided Red Mosque in the capital Islamabad five years ago, according to an AFP tally.

Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militant groups who are sworn enemies of the United States frequently carry out attacks and have strongholds in the tribal belt near Peshawar.

Militants have vowed to avenge American drone strikes targeting them in the semi-autonomous tribal areas and thwart a rumoured prospective offensive in North Waziristan.

The United States moved Friday to blacklist the Taliban-linked Haqqani network as a terrorist group, blamed for bloody attacks in Afghanistan, despite concerns about straining ties with Islamabad.

“A large number of people were present in the market when the blast took place,” said tribesman Dildar Hussain by telephone. A government official, Naseer Khan, said all of the dead were Shia Muslims.

Kurram is the only region along the Afghan border that has a majority of Shias, and has seen bloody outbreaks of sectarian violence in recent years.

The emergence of groups such as al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban in the country over the last 10 years has added to the frequency and viciousness of attacks against Shias.

In February a suicide attacker on a motorcycle blew himself up in Parachinar, killing 23 Shia Muslims and wounding 50 people.