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Pakistan

Deadly bomb blast hits northwestern Pakistani town

Several people have been killed and wounded in a bomb attack in the northwestern Kurram tribal region of Pakistan. The area has seen several sectarian clashes between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in the past.

At least 21 people have been killed and more than 50 wounded in a bomb explosion in the town of Parachinar in northwestern Pakistan, authorities said on Saturday. They said the toll was likely to rise.

The blast occurred in a crowded vegetable market in the town, which is the capital of the Kurram tribal region, located near the Afghan border. The town is in a mainly Shiite area of the tribal belt.

Pakistan's military said that soldiers had deployed to the town and cordoned off the area. Military helicopters airlifted some of the wounded to hospital.

 A tribal administrator said that the injured people were taken to Peshawar, the capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, with most clinics in rural and tribal areas being ill-equipped to deal with emergencies of this kind.

Militant action

Kurram is one of Pakistan's seven semiautonomous tribal districts, which are governed according to local laws and customs.

The region has seen a great deal of militant activity in the past years, with the district known for sectarian clashes between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Taliban militants have also been active around Parachinar, and the area was once a stronghold of the Islamist group until the Pakistani army began a crackdown in 2008.

The outlawed sectarian group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi took responsibility for the blast in a text message to a reporter of The Associated Press, saying it had carried out the attack in conjunction with the "Shahryar group of Mahsud Taliban."

tj/rc (AP, AFP, dpa)