- Special Pages
JALOZAI: A car bomb tore through a Pakistani refugee camp yesterday, killing 17 people including women and children and heightening security fears before a May general election.
More than 40 other people were wounded when the bomb exploded at Jalozai, the country’s largest refugee camp, as scores of people queued for rations.
Jalozai is home to tens of thousands of people displaced from the tribal belt, a stronghold of Taliban and Al Qaeda linked militants, on the Afghan border and is close to the main northwestern city of Peshawar.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
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.
“The bomb exploded in a car parked near the administration office where refugees had lined up to get rations and new arrivals were being registered,” said camp police official Fuad Khan.
District police chief Mohammad Hussain said the bomb was detonated by a timer and carried up to 35kg (77 pounds) of explosives and mortar bombs.
There were 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 (15 metres) 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 said.
“I lifted him and looked for a car and luckily found one nearby 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.
Aside from the election, the bombing will raise concerns about the safety of aid workers in the northwest.
Seven charity staff were shot dead on January 1 and where those working on polio eradication have also been targeted by militant groups.
Most of those now in Jalozai, built originally to host Afghan refugees, come from Khyber, where the army is battling the Taliban in the Tirah valley to try to safeguard the election and crack down on militants behind attacks.