This post has been updated. See the note below for details.
PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- A truck bomb tore through a bustling market in northwest Pakistan on Saturday, killing at least 20 people and injuring 50 in an attack that may have been directed at tribesmen who have taken up arms against local militants.
[Updated at 9:14 a.m., June 16: The death toll has been updated to 23, with 60 injured.]
The blast occurred in the town of Landi Kotal in the Khyber region along the Afghan border, a restive tribal district where Pakistani Taliban fighters and a local militant group, Lashkar-e-Islam, have long maintained strongholds. Hundreds of people were shopping in the town’s central bazaar when the bomb, planted in a pickup truck parked in one of the market’s narrow lanes, exploded, said Khalid Mumtaz Kundi, a local Khyber official.
“Thick black smoke was billowing from the area, and there were wounded people everywhere crying for help,” said Khalilullah, a local shopkeeper at the bazaar who, like many Pashtun Pakistanis, goes by one name.
Investigators believe the bomb was detonated by remote control, Kundi said. Local officials said they suspected fighters with Lashkar-e-Islam, who have been battling members of the Zakhakhel tribe. Many of the dead and wounded were Zakhakhel, and numerous shops in the bazaar belonged to Zakhakhel tribesmen. Many of the injured were in critical condition, local officials said.
Lashkar-e-Islam lays claim to sections of the Khyber district. In recent years it has carried out repeated attacks on Pakistani security forces as well as kidnappings and murders of local tribespeople. It is not on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations.
-- Zulfiqar Ali and Alex Rodriguez
Special correspondent Zulfiqar Ali reported from Peshawar, and staff writer Alex Rodriguez reported from Islamabad.
Photo: Villagers take victims to a hospital in Landi Kotal after a deadly explosion at a market. Credit: Qazi Rauf / Associated Press