MARDAN, May 18: At least 12 people, four soldiers among them, were killed and 23 others injured when a suicide bomber struck a military-run bakery near the Punjab Regiment Centre here on Sunday.
Sources said five bodies were brought to the local Combined Military Hospital and six to the District Headquarters Hospital.
DHQ Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Abdur Rahim said there were four security personnel among the dead. He said 19 injured people had been admitted to the hospital and four in critical condition had been sent to Peshawar.
Witnesses said the explosion occurred in the Cantt Bakers soon after a teenager had entered the shop. Limbs of the suspected bomber were found at the site.
District Police Officer Tahir Khan said it was a suicide attack.
The site was littered with limbs of the victims. An emergency was declared in hospitals where a large number of people gathered for information about the injured.
NWFP Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti said the blast in his district was an attempt to sabotage the peace process initiated by the provincial government.
The Tehrik-i-Taliban Darra Adamkhel claimed responsibility for the attack. A spokesman said the militants had asked the government to stop military operation and pull out security forces from Darra Adamkhel. He said the attacks would continue till the operation was called off.
The attack was carried out at a time when militants led by Baitullah Mehsud and the government are inching towards a peace agreement and have started swapping prisoners.
It follows a US air strike on the Damadola village of Bajaur Agency on Wednesday, which had left 14 people dead.
In November 2006, a bomber had killed 40 recruits at a military training centre in Dargai after an air attack on a seminary in the Damadola area.
Agencies add: “We believe the suspected suicide bomber came on foot up to the front of the bakery,” the Mardan police chief said.
The Punjab Regimental Centre is a base for troops involved in operations against militants in the tribal region.
Army spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas said four of the dead were soldiers guarding the gate of the base, which appeared to have been the target. He said the bomber blew himself up when he was stopped by one of the soldiers. He said the bakery was run by the regimental centre and that the commercial area was routinely guarded by troops.