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18 killed in Pakistan bomb blast


Police at the scene of the blast in Islamabad, Pakistan (AP)

Police at the scene of the blast in Islamabad, Pakistan (AP)

Police at the scene of the blast in Islamabad, Pakistan (AP)

A bomb has ripped through a fruit and vegetable market on the outskirts of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, killing at least 18 people and leaving dozens more wounded.

The death toll was likely to rise, according to Dr Aisha Eisani, spokeswoman for the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences where the dead and wounded were taken. She said that the hospital had received 18 bodies and had reports from police that more were on the way.

The hospital was also treating 50 people who were wounded, Dr Eisani said.

The bomb went off as morning shoppers were buying goods at the market. The blast sent cartons of fruit and vegetables flying, and television footage from the scene showed blood stains on the ground, next to stray shoes and prayer caps.

The market is on the outskirts of Islamabad, near a makeshift camp for people displaced from fighting in Pakistan's north-west as well as refugees from Afghanistan. It is also next to a supermarket that sells food and household items to the capital's middle class families.

The approximately 5kg of explosives were hidden in a fruit carton, police said.

While large bombings happen frequently in Pakistani cities such as the north-western city of Peshawar or the southern port city of Karachi, they are relatively rare in the capital, which is home to diplomats, generals and top government officials.

Police and officers from the bomb disposal squad were scanning the area for more devices.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, and the Pakistani Taliban in a statement emailed to reporters denied responsibility for the attack. The militant group said they were sticking to a previously agreed-to ceasefire.

The Taliban are currently in negotiations with the Pakistani government to try to resolve years of deadly fighting in the north-west that has killed tens of thousands of people.

But attacks have continued even as the negotiations have picked up pace, leading to questions about whether the militant group is in full control of various factions that could be behind the attacks.