Islamabad (dpa) – At least 17 people were killed when a bomb exploded at a market in north-western Pakistan on Sunday, one day after the military claimed it was about to wrap up an offensive against Islamist militants.
More than 50 people were injured in the attack, which targeted members of Shiite Muslim community in Kurram, a tribal district near Afghan border, local administrator Amjad Ali Khan said. Kurram is the only Shiite-majority area out of seven tribal districts.
The death toll could rise, Khan added.
A large number of people, including women, were buying warm clothes when a loud explosion occurred around noon local time, Ali Turi, a shopkeeper, told dpa.
“We ran out, people were screaming and then there were bodies and blood all around,” Turi said.
A hardline Sunni group linked to Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombing, adding that the attack was carried out to punish the Shiite community for joining Iran-backed militias in Syria.
The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami group said they would launch more attacks if Pakistani Shiite Muslims send more volunteers to support forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose military is fighting a multi-sided civil war, now in its fifth year.
“This is our revenge for joining Iran in war in Syria,” Ali bin Sufian, a man calling himself spokesman of the group, wrote to dpa.
International media reported last week that Pakistani Shiite fighters were being recruited by Iranian agents to fight Islamic State militants in Syria.
The bombing hit the region a day after the army said it had almost succeeded in chasing al-Qaeda-linked insurgents from the last of their hideouts in nearby North Waziristan tribal district.
The military claimed to have killed 3,400 Taliban rebels in the offensive launched from mid-June 2014, army spokesman General Asim Bajwa said Saturday.
The figure is difficult to independently verify.