KHAR, Pakistan – A truck packed with explosives blew up in a crowded market in northwestern Pakistan on Thursday, killing 11 people, as security concerns led officials to temporarily close a supply route to NATO troops in Afghanistan.
The blast in Salarzai town in the Bajur tribal area near the Afghan border 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 the attack was a suicide bombing, or if the explosives were detonated by remote control, he added. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
A shop owner who was injured in the explosion, Sher Mohammed, was sitting in his store when he saw a pickup truck enter the bazaar. Minutes later he heard a loud detonation.
"Something hurt my arm, chest and leg, and I fell down," said Mohammed. "When I opened my eyes, I found myself on this hospital bed."
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.
Thursday's decision to close one of the two border crossings used by NATO to ship troop supplies into Afghanistan was made based on security concerns, said Bakhtiar Khan, a local government official.
The closure of 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.