PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Suspected militants exploded a car bomb in a market crowded with women and children Wednesday, killing 105 people and turning shops selling dresses, toys and jewelry into a mass of burning debris and bodies.
The bombing came as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is visiting the country to offer support for its fight against a strengthening al-Qaida and Taliban-led insurgency based along the Afghan border.
The car bomb, fueled by an estimated 330 pounds of explosives, ripped through the Mina Bazaar, a warren of fabric stalls, cosmetics shops and clothing stores. More than 200 more people were injured in the explosion. At least 60 of the dead were women and children, many of whom had come to the bazaar on afternoon shopping trips.
Security analysts said the attack could backfire on insurgents and lead more people to inform on them.
The attack was Pakistan's deadliest in two years and the worst in Peshawar. No one claimed responsibility.
Clinton, on her first visit to Pakistan as secretary of state, was three hours' drive away in the capital, Islamabad, meeting Pakistani government leaders when the bomb went off in Peshawar.
Clinton condemned the violence, calling it cowardly. "I want you to know this fight is not Pakistan's alone," Clinton said in a speech many Pakistani TV stations broadcast alongside images of burning buildings and wounded victims. "These extremists are committed to destroying what is dear to us as much as they are committed to destroying that which is dear to you and to all people. So this is our struggle as well."
Speaking alongside Clinton, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the wave of retaliatory strikes will not deter Pakistan from continuing its offensive against the Taliban in South Waziristan. Clinton is in the country hoping to allay fears among Pakistanis that a $7.5 billion aid package to Pakistan recently approved by Congress would not be used by Washington as a means of exerting control over the country.
At the blast scene, relief workers and government officials said the explosion badly damaged six four-story buildings surrounding the bazaar. One of the buildings collapsed, as did a nearby mosque, officials said.
"The blast was so massive that it rocked the whole area," said Karim Khan, 40, a trader in the market. "When I came out of the shop, the bazaar was covered in dust and smoke. I rushed to the site and saw many people crying and screaming. Many shops in the market were engulfed by fire."
The wounded sat amid burning debris and body parts. Men tried to pull survivors from the wreckage. One carried away a baby with a bloody face, and a group of men rescued a young boy covered in dust, but others found only bodies of the dead.
A two-story building collapsed as firefighters doused it with water, causing more panic. Several hours later, people still searched debris for loved ones.
"There was a deafening sound, and I was like a blind man for a few minutes," said Mohammad Usman, who was wounded in the shoulder. "I heard women and children crying and started to help others. There was the smell of human flesh in the air."
At Lady Reading Hospital, wards were filled with women who were badly wounded, some with their injured children in the next beds.
"There was a massive blast, and then the roof of the fabric shop I was in fell on me," said Sameena, 18, who suffered a broken leg and broken hand. Like many Pashtun Pakistanis, she uses one name. "I saw shops burning, smoke and dead bodies everywhere, many of them women. These people are inhuman. They want to keep women inside homes. And they want to kill women."
Information from the Associated Press, Washington Post and McClatchy-Tribune Information Services was used in this report.