PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A car bomb exploded amid scores of people lining up at a food distribution center in northwest Pakistan on Thursday, killing at least 17 people and injuring 28 others in what appeared to be a rare attack on Pakistanis displaced by the country’s war against insurgents.
The blast occurred at the Jalozai camp, a sprawling tent settlement near the northwest city of Nowshera that for years has been home to Pakistanis displaced by fighting between troops and militants.
Muhammad Hussain, a local police officer, said about 75 pounds of explosives were planted in an abandoned car parked near a food distribution point supplied by the United Nations’ World Food Program.
Haji Gulbat, a member of the camp’s coordination committee, said many of the victims had been critically injured, and that the death toll was likely to increase. Gulbat said almost all of the dead and injured were camp residents, though a female worker for a Pakistani aid group was also killed, local authorities said.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack, though suspicion was likely to fall on the Pakistani Taliban, which for years has been waging war against the Pakistani government. The militant group regards the government as a puppet of the United States.
Taliban bombings have targeted everything from army installations and police check posts to mosques and crowded markets, but a camp for displaced people is an unusual target for Taliban militants.
The Taliban recently withdrew an offer to hold peace talks with Pakistani leaders, saying they did not believe Islamabad was serious about reaching a settlement with militants.
WFP officials said they would temporarily suspend operations at food distribution centers while they investigate ways to improve security.
Thousands of people displaced by fighting live at Jalozai, and many of them have been there for years. The latest influx of residents comes from the Khyber region along the Afghan border, a tribal district that has seen heavy fighting recently between Pakistani forces and Taliban militants.
Times staff writer Rodriguez reported from Kabul, Afghanistan, and special correspondent Ali from Peshawar.