Bomb tears through Pakistan market

Pakistani security officials collect evidence at the site of a bomb explosion in a fruit and vegetable market in Islamabad on April 9, 2014. Getty

ISLAMABAD -- A bomb ripped through the main fruit and vegetable market in Pakistan's capital city early Wednesday morning, killing at least 23 people and leaving dozens more wounded.

The bomb was hidden inside a crate of guavas. Minutes after the crates were taken off a truck at the Islamabad market, the bomb went off. The blast was powerful enough to be heard for miles around the market. A police officers said it was made with up to 12 pounds of explosive.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Pakistani Taliban said in statements to domestic news organizations that it was not involved, and condemned the attack.

The attack came as Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government continues to pursue delicate, and as yet fruitless, peace talks with the Taliban.

A Pakistani intelligence official told CBS News it was possible, however, that a group with links to the Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was behind the latest bloodshed.

"There are several suspects who are connected to the Taliban," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not allowed to discuss the case. "This is a very loosely knit organization and often one hand doesn't know what the other is up to."

Analysts say the TTP functions as an umbrella group, representing as many as 60 different militant factions, including many which operate outside the control of the central TTP's leadership.

Wednesday's attack was sure to raise new questions over conciliatory gestures by Sharif's government designed to lure the TTP into a political discussion.

In the past week, Pakistan's government has released as many as 30 Taliban suspects from prison. The decision to free the men -- which senior government officials have said was personally cleared by Sharif -- was made to try and garner TTP support for a peace settlement, but has been met with considerable disapproval among Pakistan's public.

The "Taliban are monsters," Saleem Khan, a vegetable vendor who sustained minor injuries in Wednesday's attack, told CBS News. "We should only fight them, kill them and save our country."

"There is no use talking to the Taliban," added Khan as he stood outside an Islamabad hospital with his freshly-bandaged.

One senior Western diplomat in Islamabad warned that Sharif would have to prove the peace initiative was bearing results soon, or face an increasing public backlash.

"As long as such attacks continue, the government's position (to negotiate with the Taliban) will remain under pressure," said the diplomat, who also spoke on condition that they would not be named. "Sharif must demonstrate that talking to the Taliban is making Pakistan a safer place."

  • Farhan Bokhari

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