PESHAWAR, Pakistan: Eight people were killed and 42 injured Tuesday when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a Shiite-run charity hotel in Pakistan's northwestern city of Peshawar, officials said, in an apparent sectarian attack.
The blast in a Shiite neighbourhood of Peshawar came as a prominent Shiite scholar was gunned down in the same part of the city on Tuesday morning, in what also appeared to be a targeted sectarian killing.
"Eight people were killed and twenty six have been injured in a suicide blast outside a local hotel yards away from an imambargah (worship place of the Shiites)," senior police official Faisal Mukhtar told AFP.
Pakistan has seen a rise in sectarian violence since several deadly clashes between Sunni and Shiite Muslim groups near the capital Islamabad in November.
Shafqat Malik, chief of Peshawar's bomb disposal unit, confirmed the explosion was a suicide blast.
"Around six kilograms of explosives were used by the suicide bomber, who walked on foot and blew himself up right in the middle of the hotel and imambargah," he said.
Jamil Shah, a spokesman for the city's government-run Leady Reading Hospital confirmed the casualties.
"Eight dead bodies have been brought to the hospital along with 42 injured," he said.
An AFP correspondent present at the scene said human flesh and blood was scattered on the ground.
Muhammad Shah, a 27-year-old driver from the Shiite-dominated Kurram tribal area in Pakistan's restless northwest said he had bought his cousin to Peshawar for medical treatment and was eating when the blast occurred.
"I was having a meal with my cousin and I saw a huge glow and then there was a loud bang and I felt the blood of my cousin splash on my face," he said as doctors removed ball bearings and pieces of iron from his shoulders and legs.
"I fell to the ground and when I regained consciousness I found myself in the hospital, I could not believe that I was alive," he added.
"We always stay in this hotel as this place is secure and is dominated by our people (sect)," he said.
Another AFP correspondent present at the hospital said that members of the Shiite community were gathered at the hospital weeping.
"The stretchers are drenched with blood and people are crying and mourning as they see their relatives," he said.
The blast occurred at a time when Pakistan's elected government had offered negotiations to the Pakistani Taliban, who have wedged a bloody campaign against the state by attacking government installations and carrying out suicide blasts in places of worship and markets.
Peace talks stumble at outset Pakistan's planned peace talks with Taliban insurgents stumbled as they began on Tuesday, with government negotiators missing a preliminary meeting citing doubts over the militants' team.
The faltering start will fuel scepticism about whether negotiations with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) can achieve a meaningful and lasting peace accord.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif caused surprise last week by announcing a team to begin dialogue with the TTP, which has been waging a violent insurgency since 2007.
Many observers had been anticipating a military offensive against TTP strongholds in Pakistan's tribal areas, following a bloody start to the year. More than 110 people were killed in militant attacks in January, many of them military personnel.
But the Pakistani Taliban moved to distance itself from the blast.
"We have no role in the blast and it was not carried out by the Pakistani Taliban," Shahid Ullah Shahid, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban told AFP.
Pakistan is rife with sectarian clashes, with Sunni militant groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban often attacking gatherings by Shiites, who make up some 20 percent of the country's mainly Muslim population.
In 2010 a car bomb exploded in the same location as Tuesday's deadly attack.