NOWSHERA – At least 17 people were killed and 42 others injured in a car bomb blast as they waited for food at Jalozai Refugee Camp in Nowshera district on Thursday.

The explosive device was planted in an Alto car BRC-8607 outside a distribution point which exploded at 11:15 am. The high-intensity blast jolted the entire area spreading fear and panic among the residents. Majority of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) of Bara Khyber Agency have been shifted to Jalozai Refugee Camp where they were being provided food packages when the tragic incident happened. The blast also resulted in killing of an NGO worker.

Soon after the incident, Rescue 1122 and Edhi ambulances rushed to the site to carry out rescue activities. Body parts of the victims were lying scattered on the blast scene. Emergency were declared at the Lady Reading Hospital and all nursing staff was put on red alert.

The dead were identified as Baro Gula, Gul Mohammad, Zahid, Tufel and his father Zahir Mohammad, Fatima, Gunaro, Tammana, security guard Wasim and eight others.

According to bomb disposal squad around 30-35 kgs of explosives planted in a car were detonated with a time device. Police said the high intensity blast also damaged several vehicles parked outside the distribution point.

Fawad Khan, a police official responsible for the security of the camp, said, “The bomb exploded in a car parked near the administration office where refugees had lined up to get ration and new arrivals were being registered.”

Agencies add: The Taliban denied responsibility for the blast. Spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan told a British news agency that it was “inhuman and un-Islamic to target innocents”.

But officials linked the attack to fighting in Khyber district, where the military has stepped up an offensive against Taliban and local militia, and from where most camp residents have fled.

An AFP reporter saw scenes of devastation, with pieces of flesh and blood splattering the area.

Spilt grain and children’s food supplements littered the ground next to discarded toys, sandals and twisted metal. The engine of the car which exploded lay around 50 feet from a two-foot crater left by the blast.

Tariq Khan, a 40-year-old displaced driver from Khyber, said he was in his tent when he heard a “very loud” blast and saw thick black smoke. “I rushed to the spot and saw bodies lying in a pool of blood and wounded people crying in pain. I saw small pieces of human flesh everywhere and found my uncle, both of whose legs had gone, and he was crying with pain,” Khan told AFP. “I lifted him and looked for a car and luckily found one and took him to hospital,” he said.

Local administration official Ayaz Khan Mandokhel said 15 people were killed, including two children aged around eight and 10 and three women.

Hussain, the police official, confirmed the death toll. “There are 41 injured, four of them are in a critical condition,” he added.

Rations were being handed out by a local charity BEST in partnership with the United Nations and the US Agency for International Development.

Mohammad Ashraf, project director at BEST, a UN partner, said a 30-year-old female member of staff who worked on hygiene was killed. Nine other members of staff who were distributing food were wounded, he said. “People of different areas are living here in this camp and the bombing appears to be the result of rivalry between the groups in Khyber and the ongoing fighting between them,” a senior police official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The camp is home to people who have fled violence in ethnic Pashtun areas along the border with Afghanistan where Qaeda and Taliban militants operate.

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled from conflict over the past five years or so, from the tribal areas along the border and from elsewhere, such as the Swat valley.

Many people have been able to go home, especially those from Swat, but thousands remain in camps.

The blast comes days after the elected government completed its full five-year term, the first in the country’s volatile history to do so.

The government has struggled with Taliban violence, sectarian unrest, chronic power cuts and a fragile economy. General elections will be held on May 11.

Aside from the election, the bombing will raise concerns about the safety of aid workers in the areas, where seven charity staff were shot dead on January 1 and where those working on polio eradication have also been targeted.