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Investigators Search for Survivors of Deadly Bombing

December 22, 1995

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) _ The prime minister offered a $30,000 reward Friday for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for a car bomb that reduced an entire city block to cinders and killed at least 31 people.

Rescuers continued to claw through the ruins of a large department store Friday, a day after the bomb exploded on Peshawar’s teeming Saddar Street marketplace, a jumble of outdoor stalls and larger stores.

Scores of people could still be trapped in the rubble of the Wadood and Sons department store and the death toll could reach 50, police and hospital officials said.

Authorities in the Northwest Frontier Province, where Peshawar is located, declared Saturday a day of mourning.

Provincial Police Chief Masood Shah said three teams had been set up to investigate the explosion.

They found that the bomb was probably on a timer, and was made with about 55 pounds of explosives.

``It was a time device planted in a car which triggered a chain reaction,″ said Ghulam Hussain, assistant inspector general of the bomb disposal squad.

No one has claimed responsibility. Police and government officials have accused the government of Afghanistan.

Relations between Islamabad and Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani have plummeted in recent months. Rabbani accuses Pakistan of supporting its most powerful rival, the Islamic militia known as Taliban.

On Friday, Afghanistan’s state-controlled Radio Kabul condemned the bombing and denied Rabbani’s involvement.

In the last two months there have been at least 14 small explosions in Peshawar, causing minimal damage and injuries. The police chief said nine Afghans have been arrested in connection with those bombings.

During the height of the war against Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s, Peshawar was the staging arena for the Muslim insurgency and was home to at least 5 million Afghan refugees.

There were frequent bombings, and the government routinely blamed the Moscow-backed government in Kabul. In 1992, when Muslim rebels ousted the Communists, the bombings stopped.

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