MINGORA/DERA ISMAIL KHAN, July 15: At least 49 people, 28 of them law-enforcement agencies’ personnel, were killed and 96 others injured in a string of suicide bombings in Swat and Dera Ismail Khan districts on Sunday.
Official sources said that 28 people, 12 of them policemen, were killed and 56 others injured when a suicide bomber detonated explosives strapped to his body at a police recruitment centre in Dera Ismail Khan.
“This was reminiscent of attacks on police recruitment centres in Baghdad,” an official in Peshawar remarked, adding that the government would now have to go after the bases of militant groups in the tribal region.
With the latest deaths, the number of those killed in a spate of suicide attacks, roadside bombings and rocket attacks in the NWFP and the tribal region since July 3 has reached 101. The toll in suicide bombings since Friday has jumped to 71.
An official said that while militant activity had been rife in the two districts for quite some time, it was difficult to say whether the surge in violence had anything to do with the government’s operation against Lal Masjid-Jamia Hafsa in Islamabad.
Earlier, 16 soldiers and five other people were killed, while 40 security personnel injured, when a military convoy came under two suicide attacks and a remote-controlled blast in Matta tehsil in Swat district.
“The suicide attacks involved two cars. One hit the convoy from the front which caused the most casualties, while the other hit it from the rear,” a security official said.
Witnesses said a small blue car rammed into a coach in the convoy which was carrying armymen from Kabal to Matta. The car exploded after hitting the coach, killing soldiers and residents of some nearby houses. The blast damaged about 30 shops while roofs of six houses in the vicinity caved in.
Another suicide bomber ploughed his explosive-laden car into the convoy barely 80 metres from the site of the first blast, killing security personnel and some civilians.
Meanwhile, a remote-controlled device planted on a motorcycle also exploded in the same locality.
The dead and the injured were taken to the Saidu Sharif Hospital. Witnesses said the critically injured soldiers were taken to other hospitals through helicopters.
Security forces sealed the locality after the attacks and helicopter gunships hovered over the area, residents said.
A number of people were detained on suspicion of involvement in the attacks.
The locals said the Matta bazaar was closed after the news of the attacks spread. They said sporadic shooting also took place in the area for some time.
Tension prevailed in the area amid fear of an impending military operation against a cleric, Maulana Fazlullah, who propagates his views through an illegal FM radio station in his native village Imam Dehri.
A policeman in Dera Ismail Khan told Dawn that a suicide bomber entered the police lines when a recruitment process for the force was in progress and detonated explosives in the middle of the crowd. He said 12 policemen and 16 candidates were killed.
He said that about 200 candidates were present at the recruitment centre at the time of the attack.
Witnesses said body parts were scattered all over the place after the explosion. The dead and the injured were taken to the District Headquarters Hospital, where the condition of seven wounded people was critical.
Officials said the bomb disposal squad defused two hand-grenades which had been found on the site of the explosion after the blast.
Police encircled the area after the attack and enhanced security in the Dera Ismail Khan city.
NWFP Chief Minister Akram Khan Durrani has convened a jirga of Malakand on Monday to discuss the situation.
An official statement said a meeting had been convened on July 17 to discuss the situation. •Convoy ambushed in Swat •D.I. Khan police centre hit