Blast kills 12 at cinema in Peshawar

February 12, 2014 - 6:53:42 am

Volunteers searching the cinema hall after the grenade attack in Peshawar yesterday. 

PESHAWAR: A triple grenade attack on a cinema showing pornography in northwest Pakistan killed 12 people yesterday as government and Taliban negotiators met for a second round of peace talks.

It was the second such attack within two weeks on a cinema in the city of Peshawar, which has been on the front line of Pakistan’s homegrown Islamist insurgency.

The attack came as negotiators representing the Pakistani government and Taliban militants met for a second time as part of efforts to end the bloody seven-year insurgency.

After the meeting in Islamabad the chief negotiator for the Taliban, hardline cleric Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, said the two sides had proposed a ceasefire “to make the atmosphere for talks more conducive”.

Peshawar city police chief Mohammad Ijaz Ahmed said three grenades were used in the attack and up to 80 people were in the Shama cinema at the time.

The cinema is known for showing explicit erotic movies as well as regular films.

Another senior police officer, Faisal Mukhtar, said that 11 people were killed and 17 wounded. An official at Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital, Syed Jameel Shah, confirmed the death toll.

Scraps of human flesh, blood-soaked shoes, caps and condoms littered the floor of the hall after the blasts,  reporter at the scene said.

Akbar Khan, 62, whose left arm and left thigh were injured, said  from his hospital bed that he was watching a pornographic movie when a deafening blast rocked the auditorium. “It seemed like a hot iron rod pierced through my left arm and leg as I was hit by ball bearings,” he said.

“I ran towards the gate, from where I was taken to hospital.”

Peshawar, the capital of restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, has seen numerous bomb and gun attacks in recent years.

The Shama cinema has been in business for more than 30 years. It has been attacked twice before by Islamist activists, but yesterday was the first bombing.

Yesterday’s attack bears striking similarities to one on the city’s Picture House cinema on February 2, when two grenades were thrown into the auditorium. Four people were killed and 31 injured.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) umbrella group denied responsibility for yesterday’s attack -- as they denied the earlier one -- but it will nevertheless fuel scepticism about the talks’ chances of success.

There are fears that the movement, a fractious coalition of militant groups, could be splintering and undermining the peace drive.

As news of Tuesday’s cinema attack was emerging, the heads of the government and TTP negotiators held a press conference giving a positive account of their meeting.

Lead government negotiator Irfan Siddiqui said they hoped to make “positive movement” in the coming days.

Haq, whose fellow negotiators met TTP leaders over the weekend, said the Taliban had “shown a great deal of prudence and maturity”.

AFP

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