A bomb ripped through a bus carrying Pakistani government employees in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Wednesday, killing 15 people, police said.
The explosion took place in an area of the city that houses military institutions and residences, according to police official Abbas Majeed Marwa. The bus was taking government employees from several nearby towns to the provincial secretariat in Peshawar, he said.
Nearly 40 people were also wounded in the blast, which was set off by an improvised explosive device that was planted under a seat in the bus, he added.
No one immediately claimed responsibility but suspicion likely is to fall on the Pakistani Taliban and other allied militant groups who have been waging a war on the state for more than a decade, killing tens of thousands of people in a quest to overthrow the government.
Local TV footage showed the wreckage of the bus as police and rescue officials rushed the wounded people to hospitals. Footage from a surveillance camera had captured the moment of the explosion, showing the bus moving on a road and then blowing up into a cloud of thick smoke.
Rescuers had to cut through the bus to pull out several of the victims, both dead and wounded, said another police official, Mubarak Zeb. He said about 17 pounds of explosive material was used in the bomb.
Peshawar has been the scene of several major Taliban attacks, including the December 2014 massacre at an army public school in the city that that killed 150, mostly children.
Wednesday's bombing also underscored that despite widespread Pakistani army offensives — including the one launched in June 2014 in nearby North Waziristan, a tribal area that is home to the Taliban and other local and foreign al-Qaeda-linked Islamic groups — the militants still have the power to launch large-scale attacks.
"We are facing these cowards," provincial spokesman Mushtaq Ghani told reporters at the crime scene. He said the militants who fled the military offensives in the countryside have found refuge in urban areas, where they now stage attacks seeking to strike at soft targets.