PESHAWAR: A powerful explosion at a seminary in the provincial capital’s Dir Colony claimed the lives of at least seven people and wounded more than 70 others, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police chief Sanaullah Abbasi and hospital officials said Tuesday.
Police and rescue teams reached Madrassah Zubairiyyah and launched the rescue operation at the crime scene.
According to Rescue 1122, the injured were shifted to Lady Reading Hospital (LRH), where the condition of several of them is stated to be critical.
There were nearly 1,000 children in the seminary at the time of the blast. Majority of the victims are children and instructors as the blast took place during classes at the religious school.
According to AFP, teachers and boys as young as seven were among the wounded. “Most of those killed and injured were hit by the ball bearings and some were badly burnt,” hospital official Muhammad Asim Khan told the publication, adding that the all of the deceasede were men aged between 20 and 40.
No group has yet claimed responsibility of the attack, which comes a couple of days after a remote-controlled bomb exploded at the Hazarganji fruit market in Balochistan’s capital, Quetta, killing at least three people died and injuring seven.
Bomb in a bag
KP police say initial investigation reveals it to be an improvised explosive device (IED) planted inside a bag.
Geo News correspondent Shakeel Farman Ali reported that police told him a man had walked into the seminary and left a bag inside. Due to the number of children in the main hall, “there was not enough space so they were all standing very close together inside the hall”.
An LRH official said that the hospital received seven bodies and 70 injured after the incident. At least five victims are critically injured. Another 36 were shifted to Naseerullah Babar Memorial Hospital.
KP Health Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra also confirmed the death toll.
Jhagra added that there were “patients at other hospitals, but the majority are being treated at LRH”.
He quoted the CCPO as saying it was “confirmed that preliminary onsite investigations show explosives being used”.
“Let us pray for the lives lost, and redouble our efforts to maintain the safety and security of this beautiful country, province and city,” the minister added.
Reports on social media showed the lesson at the seminary was being broadcast live on Facebook when the blast ripped through the main hall some time after 8am. Footage run on TV indicated the extent of the damage caused to the school.
Condemnations pour in
Prime Minister Imran Khan offered condolences to the victims families and prayed for the early recovery of those injured in the Peshawar blast.
“I want to assure my nation we will ensure the terrorists responsible for this cowardly barbaric attack are brought to justice” as soon as possible, he said on Twitter.
He also expressed “regret over the loss of precious lives in the blast”.
KP Labour and Culture Minister Shaukat Ali Yousafzai, while condemning the incident, said Chief Minister Mahmood Khan had summoned a meeting to discuss the security situation. He revealed that Quetta and Peshawar were on threat alert following which security had been heightened.
Yousufzai added that the seminary staff and children were soft targets. “Terrorists always aim for soft targets. This area has been peaceful for a long time,” he said.
Information Minister Shibli Faraz also strongly condemned the attack, promising to “reduce to dust those with the nefarious intentions to destablise the country”.
“Attackers on educated students have nothing to do with humanity,” he said on Twitter. “We express our heartfelt condolences to the families of the martyrs and pray for speedy recovery of the injured.”
Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry noted how children in Peshawar had “once again been targeted by the vile and wretched enemy” and that “in this war, Pakistan’s soldiers, politicians, scholars, teachers, lawyers, doctors, people from all walks of life have given their blood”.
“We will end Pakistan’s war [against terror] no matter what,” Chaudhry vowed.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said he was “saddened” over the Peshawar blast “where terrorists in their desperation have attacked innocent children”.
“My prayers for those injured and martyred. May Allah give their families the strength to bear this tragedy,” he said on Twitter.
Azerbaijan’s Ambassador to Pakistan Ali Alizada condemned the “heinous terrorist attack”.
“Thoughts and prayers are with bereaved families and those who injured. Allah bless,” he wrote on Twitter.
The European Union’s (EU) Ambassador to Pakistan, Androulla Kaminara, said she was “totally horrified” and categorically condemned the attack.
“My heart goes out to the parents whose children have been hurt and prayers for speedy recovery. Condolences 4 lives lost,” she said on Twitter.
On the other hand, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari strongly condemned the terrorist attack in Peshawar, saying: “Those who target innocent civilians have no religion; they are beasts. Terrorists cannot shake the resolve of the Pakistani nation!
Bilawal called for the authorities to ensure the best medical treatment for those injured in the incident and expressed sympathy and solidarity with the families of those martyred in the blast.
The PPP boss also underscored his concern over the rising incidence of terrorism in Pakistan.
PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz, while terming the Peshawar blast a “heartbreaking incident”, condoled with the victims and their families.
“The loss of children in particular has been devastating. It is impossible to imagine and alleviate the grief of the mothers whose laps have become barren,” she added.
PML-N Supremo Nawaz Sharif “strongly condemned the blast at Peshawar Madrassa”, according to a Twitter post by the party.
Party secretary-general and former interior minister, Ahsan Iqbal, said he was “very sorry to hear about the blast & casualties in Peshawar”.