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Car bomb in Pakistan marketplace kills 34

As Pakistani forces battle the Taliban, the militants' latest retaliatory attack in the Peshawar area continues a shift in strategy in which hard-to-secure city markets are targeted.

November 11, 2009|Alex Rodriguez

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — A car bomb blast tore through a crowded market Tuesday in a city near Peshawar and killed 34 people, the third terrorist attack to strike the area in three days.

The blast occurred in Charsadda, about 25 miles northeast of Peshawar. More than 50 people were injured in the attack, believed carried out by a suicide bomber, Charsadda police official Riaz Khan said.

As Pakistani troops continued to battle Taliban militants in the South Waziristan tribal region along the Afghan border, authorities have failed to stem the retaliatory violence that militants have inflicted on the country.

Peshawar, in the northwest on the edge of the nation's largely lawless tribal areas, has been hardest hit.

The blast in Charsadda was preceded by a suicide bomb attack Monday by a passenger on a motorcycle rickshaw that killed three people in Peshawar and a suicide bomb blast Sunday at a cattle market in the village of Adazai, in the city's suburbs, that killed the village's mayor and 17 other people.

On Oct. 28, a car bomb blast at a crowded bazaar in Peshawar killed 118 people, many of them women and children. And an Oct. 9 suicide car bomb blast at a Peshawar market claimed 53 lives.

In a shift in tactics, militants are no longer focusing suicide bomb strikes on police and security installations, instead broadening their scope to include busy city markets, where it is extremely difficult to scrutinize every person and car.

"They have started targeting public places," said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, North-West Frontier Province's information minister. Peshawar is the province's capital.

"They are punishing innocent people for supporting the army operation [in South Waziristan]. But the people will not lose hope."

Peshawar is especially vulnerable because of its proximity to tribal areas, such as the Khyber and Orakzai districts, where many Taliban militants remain holed up. Peshawar police officials say they have tightened security on roads into the city and increased the number of checkpoints, but the measures appear to have had little effect.

Speaking to Pakistan's parliament Tuesday night, Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gillani said the government should reallocate more funding to North-West Frontier Province, which is bearing the brunt of the militant violence.

"We are fighting a guerrilla war," Gillani said. "These terrorist attacks are a reaction to our success" in South Waziristan.

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alex.rodriguez@latimes.com

Special correspondent Zulfiqar Ali in Peshawar contributed to this report.

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