- Associated Press - Monday, December 17, 2012

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — A car bomb exploded in a crowded market in Pakistan‘s troubled northwest tribal region near the Afghan border Monday, killing 17 people and wounding more than 40 others, officials said.

The bomb went off next to the women’s waiting area of a bus stop, which is located near the office of one of the top political officials in the Khyber tribal area, said Hidayat Khan, a local government official. But it’s unclear if the office was the target.

The 17 dead included five boys and two women, said Dr. Abdul Qudoos at a hospital in Jamrud town, where the attack occurred. At least 44 people were wounded, he said.

The explosives were packed in a small, white car that was parked in the middle of the road, blocking traffic, said Shireen Afridi, who was nearby buying a phone card when the bomb exploded.

“There was fire in which children burned, women burned, poor Afghan people burned, and it caused a lot of destruction,” Mr. Afridi said. “People’s heads were lying in the drain.”

Local TV footage showed several cars and shops in the market that were badly damaged. Residents threw buckets of water on burning vehicles as rescue workers transported the wounded to the hospital.

The market was located close to the office of the assistant political agent for Khyber, said Mr. Khan, who works in the office. Initial reports wrongly indicated the women’s waiting area was for the political office, not the bus stop.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Khyber is home to various Islamist militant groups, including the Pakistani Taliban, which have waged a bloody insurgency against the government for the past few years.

Taliban militants fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons at an army convoy in northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province Monday, killing three soldiers and wounding three others, said Nisar Ahmad, a local government official.

The soldiers were escorting a polio vaccination team outside the town of Lakki Marwat when the attack occurred, said Wazir Khan, a resident.

The Taliban have spoken out against polio vaccination in recent months, claiming the health workers are acting as spies for the United States and the vaccine itself cause harm.

A Pakistani Taliban spokesman in the South Waziristan tribal area, Asim Mehsud, claimed responsibility in a telephone call to The Associated Press.

“These polio drops are a deadly American campaign to poison us,” he said.

The army has carried out offensives against the Taliban in most parts of the tribal region, including Khyber, but militants continue to carry out regular attacks in the country.

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