By Sharon Behn
A bomb has blown up a bus full of government employees in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing at least 19 people, Pakistan’s second lethal blast in as many days.
Local officials say the bomb was planted in the back of the bus. More than 35 people were wounded in the blast, which destroyed most of the vehicle.
Peshawar is close to Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, an area that is known to harbor Taliban and other militants.
Provincial Information Minister Iftikhar Hussain says Pakistan will not be cowed by militant violence.
“Pakistan is ready to seek a peaceful resolution to the country’s insurgency, but if militants are unwilling to talk and persist in acts of terrorism, then it is the country’s duty to go after them with full force,” he said via translator.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
Peshawar has seen numerous bombings in the past five years, but the violence dropped in recent months as the Pakistani military pushed back militants in the area.
The bus explosion came just a day after a blast outside a religious school in the southwestern city of Quetta killed 16 people, including children.
That bomb was apparently tied to a bicycle.
No one has claimed responsibility for Thursday’s attack.
The violence comes after U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta urged Pakistan to take greater action against militant safe havens on its soil.
Maleeha Lodhi, a former ambassador to the United States, said the terrorists that threaten the United States are the same as those who wage war against Pakistan and who Pakistan has fought to purge from the country.
“Pakistanis feel that they have sacrificed so much for this fight against terror, which is as much a threat to Pakistan as it is to the international community, and yet it is accused of not doing enough,” she said.
A number of insurgent groups are living in Pakistan’s remote, border tribal areas, including al-Qaida, the Pakistan Taliban, and the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan’s military launched a wide assault on these militants in 2007, and has continued to fight to keep them at bay.