Truck bomb kills 11 in northwest Pakistani market

Associated Press
Pakistani investigators look for evidence at the site of a bomb blast in the Pakistani tribal area of Khar, Bajur, Thursday, July 26, 2012. A government official says a bomb has exploded in a market in northwestern Pakistan close to the Afghan border, killing scores of people. (AP Photo/Anwarullah Khan)
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KHAR, Pakistan (AP) — A truck packed with explosives exploded in a crowded market in northwestern Pakistan close to the Afghan border on Thursday, killing 11 people, a government official said.

The blast in Salarzai town in the Bajur tribal area also wounded nearly two dozen people, some of them critically, and damaged several vehicles and shops, said Jehangir Azam, a local government administrator.

It's unclear whether it was a suicide bombing, or if the explosives were detonated by remote control, said Azam.

A shop owner who was injured in the attack, Sher Mohammed, was sitting in his store when he saw a pickup truck enter the bazaar. Minutes later he heard a large explosion.

"Something hurt my arm, chest and leg, and I feel down," said Mohammed. "When I opened my eyes, I found myself on this hospital bed."

Mohammed cursed the attackers, saying "I don't know why we have been targeted."

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Pakistani Taliban have a strong presence in Bajur, but the group's spokesman, Ahsanullah Ahsan, denied they were behind the bombing. The group often denies involvement in bombings with significant civilian casualties.

The army has carried out several offensives against militants in Bajur, but they continue to stage attacks.

Also Thursday, Pakistan temporarily closed one of the two crossings used by NATO to ship troop supplies into Afghanistan because of security concerns, said Bakhtiar Khan, a local government officials.

The decision to close the Torkham crossing in the northwest Khyber tribal area followed an attack in the area on Tuesday in which gunmen opened fire on a convoy carrying NATO troop supplies, killing a driver and wounding two other people.

The crossing could remain closed for several days as officials work with Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Corps to come up with an adequate security plan, said Khan.

The other crossing used by NATO convoys, Chaman in southwest Baluchistan province, remains open, said customs official Mohammed Tariq.

Pakistan closed its Afghan border to NATO supplies in November in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Islamabad finally reopened the route in early July after the U.S. apologized for the deaths.

The flow of trucks over the border since then has been relatively thin because of bureaucratic delays and disputes over compensation.

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Associated Press writers Riaz Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan, and Matiullah Achakzai in Chaman, Pakistan, contributed to this report.

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