Taliban suspected as hand grenades tear through Pakistan movie theater in Peshawar

Pakistani rescue workers remove a body from the site of a grenade attack on a crowded movie theater in Peshawar, Pakistan, Feb. 11, 2014. AP

ISLAMABAD -- Three hand grenades went off Tuesday inside a movie theater in the northern Pakistani city of Peshawar, killing at least 10 people and injuring another 20.

The attack could represent just the latest setback to recently-launched peace talks between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government and the Pakistani Taliban.

A Pakistani intelligence official told CBS News the attack took place Tuesday afternoon when at least 50 people had gathered inside the Shama theater.

“All three grenades exploded in that part of the cinema where most of the film watchers were sitting. The casualty count is likely to go up further,” said the official, who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the official said the “number one suspect must be the Taliban,” which has used such tactics for more than a decade to try and undermine the Pakistani government.

Taliban militants have attacked Peshawar’s movie theaters in the past -- the Islamic extremists consider movies and popular music sacrilegious.

Peshawar police chief Ijaz Ahmed told reporters after the attack that the theater’s management had been warned recently by police to tighten its security.

“We had advised this cinema to tighten security checks on everyone coming to the cinema after we were alerted to a possible attack,” said Ahmed.

Analysts warned Tuesday’s attack was likely to further diminish the already weak prospects for success in the ongoing dialogue between Sharif’s government and leaders of Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), as the Pakistani Taliban is known.

“If the Taliban were involved in this attack, the question is why should the government talk to them,” Pakistani security analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi asked in an interview with CBS News. “Either way, I fear these talks will not make much headway.”

A senior Western diplomat in Islamabad told CBS News Tuesday’s attack will add to the pressure on Sharif’s government to opt for an all-out military campaign against the TTP in the rugged, lawless North Waziristan region along the Afghan border.

“I think the window of opportunity for a peaceful end to this conflict is closing,” said the diplomat, who also requested anonymity.

  • Farhan Bokhari

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