A triple grenade attack on a cinema known for showing pornography in Peshawar killed 13 people on Tuesday as government and Taliban negotiators met for a second round of peace talks.
It was the second such attack within two weeks on a cinema in Peshawar, which has been on the front line of Pakistan’s homegrown Islamist insurgency. The attack came as negotiators representing the Pakistani government and Taliban militants met for a second time as part of efforts to end the bloody seven-year rebellion.
After the meeting in Islamabad the chief negotiator for the Taliban, hardline cleric Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, said the two sides had proposed a ceasefire “to make the atmosphere for talks more conducive.”
Peshawar police chief Mohammad Ijaz Ahmed said three grenades were used in the attack and up to 80 people were in the Shama cinema at the time.
The cinema is known for showing explicit erotic movies as well as regular films. At the time of the attack, it was showing the film Yaarana (Friendship).
A statement from Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital said 13 people were killed in the attack and scores were wounded. Scraps of human flesh, blood-soaked shoes, caps and condoms littered the floor of the hall after the blasts, an AFP reporter at the scene said.
Akbar Khan, 62, whose left arm and left thigh were injured, said from his hospital bed that he was watching a pornographic movie when a deafening blast rocked the auditorium. “It seemed like a hot iron rod pierced through my left arm and leg as I was hit by ball bearings,” he said. “I ran toward the gate, from where I was taken to hospital.”
The Shama Cinema has been in business for over 30 years. Islamist activists have attacked it twice before, but Tuesday was the first bombing. The owners had been advised to take care, police said. “The owners had been told to beef up their security in advance,” said the police chief.
Tuesday’s attack bears striking similarities to one on the city’s Picture House cinema on Feb. 2, when two grenades were thrown into the auditorium. Four people were killed and 31 injured.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) umbrella group denied responsibility for Tuesday’s attack—as they denied the earlier one—but it will nevertheless fuel skepticism about the talks’ chances of success. There are fears that the movement, a fractious coalition of militant groups, could be splintering over the talks initiative, undermining the process.