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At Least 90 Dead In Peshawar Blast As Clinton Visits Islamabad


Flames rise from the scene of a powerful bomb blast at a Peshawar market.

Flames rise from the scene of a powerful bomb blast at a Peshawar market.

A powerful bomb blast in Pakistan's northwestern city of Peshawar has killed and wounded dozens of people, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Islamabad vowing a new page in U.S.-Pakistan relations.

Doctors at the city's main hospital said that at least 90 people were killed, and more than 200 injured, news agencies reported.

A correspondent for RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reported from Peshawar that the explosion struck a market in one of the busiest parts of the city. Several shops in the market were destroyed, and parts of the neighborhood were in flames as firefighters and ambulances rushed to the scene, he reported.

The Peepal Mandi market is frequented mainly by women customers, and the majority of the victims were reported to be women.

A local shopkeeper, Ehsanullah, told RFE/RL that he was buried under rubble from the force of the blast, and was hospitalized for his injuries.

The country has seen an increase in such attacks as the military carries out an operation against Taliban militants in South Waziristan, on the Afghan border.

Peshawar, a teeming metropolis, is a gateway to Pakistan's northwest tribal belt -- where the military is continuing a major offensive against Pakistani Taliban militants blamed for some of the worst carnage in the region.

Clinton In Pakistan

The latest attack came as U.S. Secretary of State Clinton arrived in Islamabad and began talks with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Qureshi attributed the violence to militants who he says are desperate as a result of Pakistani army offensives against them in and around the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

"You are on the run and we know that," Qureshi said. "We defeated you in Swat and Malakand, and the brave soldiers and officers of the Pakistan army will defeat you in Waziristan. You think by attacking innocent people and lives [that] you will shake our determination. No sir."

Clinton said the Taliban attacks in Pakistan are "cowardly," suggesting that militants use violence because they are afraid that their goals are be rejected by the majority of people in Pakistan.

"If the people behind these attacks were so sure of their beliefs, let them join the political process," Clinton said. "Let them come forth to the people of Pakistan and this democracy and make their case that they don't want girls to go to school, that they want women to be kept back, that they believe that they have all the answers and that the rest of us who are people of faith have none."

The Peshawar attack coincided with deadly attacks in Kabul that killed at least 12.

(RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan contributed to this report. With agency reports.)
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