Pakistan hit by car bomb hours after Clinton’s arrival


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A devastating bomb ripped through a
busy market Wednesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar just hours
after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in the country.

Officials put the death toll at more than 80, with more than
200 wounded. Many of the victims were thought to be women and children who were
shopping in the bazaar. Dozens of people were feared to be buried under the

The country is reeling from a wave of terrorism that’s
accompanied the army’s offensive in South Waziristan, the region on the Afghan
border that’s the center for Pakistan’s extremist groups. Bombings and gun
attacks have hit cities across the country since the beginning of this month.

The blast in Peshawar flattened rows of shops and ignited a
fire that engulfed the area inside the congested old city. Bewildered wounded
people were seen stumbling out of the dust and thick smoke in the narrow
street. Locals were trying to dig people out of the debris. The explosion came
from a powerful car bomb, officials said.

The local head of the bomb disposal squad, Shafqat Malik,
said at the site of the blast that more than 330 pounds of high explosives had
been used.

The buildings, which included a mosque, were old and
collapsed easily. The Peepal Mandi market was known for selling makeup and
wedding-related goods, making it a popular destination for women. Shopkeepers
previously had received threats from Islamic extremists who objected to women
going out shopping.

“The terrorists are trying to demoralize the people and
the government,” said senior provincial Minister Bashir Bilour, who
visited the scene. “Even if we have to die, we’ll keep fighting these
terrorists till our last breath.”

Clinton began a three-day visit to Pakistan amid
extraordinary security measures. She’s seeking to repair the American image in
the country, which was badly damaged by a recent row over a U.S. aid bill. Many
Pakistanis blame the U.S. presence in the region for the instability that’s
struck their country and Afghanistan.

Parallel to the bombing in Peshawar, assailants presumed to
be Afghan Taliban militants attacked a U.N. guesthouse in Kabul, Afghanistan,
killing at least six U.N. employees.

“I want you to know that this fight is not Pakistan’s
alone,” Clinton told a news conference Wednesday in Islamabad. “This
is our struggle as well.”

Via McClatchy-Tribune News Service.