A massive bomb blast in Peshawar killed more than 90 people as United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in the Pakistani capital on Wednesday.
The overwhelming devastation caused by the blast cast a shadow on Ms. Clinton’s three-day visit, underlining the complexities of the challenge that the Obama Administration faces in this country and the region.
The visit is aimed at public diplomacy and clearing what Ms. Clinton described as “misperceptions” about the American role in Pakistan.
Provincial Information Minister Mian Ifthikar told reporters that 87 people were killed in the explosion that ripped through a congested market in the North-West Frontier Province capital shortly after 1 p.m.
But the death toll kept rising as many of those injured died and more bodies were discovered at the site of the explosion, an intersection of four extremely crowded markets near the historic Kissa Khwani Bazar in the heart of Peshawar.
A fire from the explosion further ravaged the area. More than 200 people were reported injured in the blast that officials said was caused by a bomb planted in a parked car.
Many people were feared trapped under the debris of buildings destroyed by the explosion and fire. Television footage showed weeping and dazed survivors desperately digging through the rubble for the dead and the injured.
The devastating attack came just a couple of hours after Ms. Clinton landed at the Chaklala air-base in Rawalpindi.
“These attacks on innocent people are cowardly; they are not courageous,” the Secretary of State said at a press conference she addressed jointly with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
Ms. Clinton expressed admiration for Pakistan’s struggle against “tenacious and brutal extremist groups,” and offered U.S. help in the fight, which she described as “unavoidable.”
“Our resolve against extremism is as strong as ever and we are going to take measures against them that we believe are going to be more effective,” the U.S. Secretary of State said.