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Man Loses 15 Family Members In Peshawar Market Blast

  • RFE/RL

MATTA MUGHALKHEL, Pakistan -- Malak Taj collapsed in tears beside the graves of 14 family members who were buried in his village on September 29 -- all victims of a car bomb that ripped through a crowded market in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Next to Malak, a 15th grave lay open -- freshly dug by his neighbors in Matta Mughalkhel, a village in the Charsadda district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

The grave had been prepared for Taj's horrifically burned 7-year-old son, Junaid. Hours later, Junaid died at Peshawar's Lady Reading Hospital and was taken to his final resting place.

Altogether, at least 42 people were killed and dozens injured by the remote-controlled car bomb in the historic Qissa Khwani Bazaar. Police say the car was packed with more than 200 kilograms of explosives.

Witnesses said a crowded van carrying Taj's relatives and neighbors was driving near the car bomb at the precise moment the explosives were detonated. They say the blast knocked down overhead power lines that fell onto the vehicle and set it on fire.

Those in the van who survived the blast were trapped inside and burned alive.

Taj told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal that his family and some friends from his village had traveled to Peshawar to distribute invitations for the wedding of his brother, Dilraj Khan.

"The dead include my sisters, my wife, my mother, a brother, and my cousins," he said. "I had sent my brother and my cousin [with the women into Peshawar]. When they were all sitting in the van in the morning [before they left], there were 12 women and seven or eight children all together. All of them were killed. Even Hammad and Junaid -- my sons. They also died."

'Market Of Storytellers'

Taj's tale is one of many tragedies at the Qissa Khwani Bazaar, which means "Market of Storytellers."

Less than 100 meters from the spot where the bomb exploded there is a dark stone monument to the victims of a massacre that occurred in 1930, when Peshawar was part of British India.

Hundreds of unarmed, nonviolent Pashtun demonstrators in the Khudai Khidmatgar movement were gunned down by British troops while protesting against colonial rule.

The massacre triggered widespread demonstrations and is seen as one of the defining moments of the movement against British rule.

In 2010, at least 25 people were killed at the market by a suicide bomber who appeared to be targeting a senior police officer.

That blast also killed Dost Muhammad, the local leader of the Jamaat-e Islami, who was leading a street demonstration.

The latest bombing was the third major attack in Peshawar in a week. On September 22, 80 people were killed by a double suicide-bomb attack that targeted a nearby church.

On September 27, a bomb hit a bus that was carrying government employees in Peshawar, killing 18 people.

One doctor at Lady Reading Hospital, where Taj's son Junaid died, told Radio Mashaal that he has seen the bodies of 140 people killed in terrorist attacks in Peshawar since September 22.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the most recent attack.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban denied that it was responsible. But there are some Taliban splinter groups that appear to be operating independently from the Pakistani Taliban's umbrella group in a bid to thwart government efforts to open peace talks.

Written by Ron Synovitz, based on reporting by RFE/RL Radio Mashaal correspondents Shah Nawaz Khan in Matta Mughalkhel, Pakistan, and Daud Khattak in Prague.
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