MARDAN: At least 28 army personnel were killed and 40 others injured when a teenage boy blew himself up at the Punjab Regiment Centre in Mardan on Thursday.
Western agencies put the death toll at 31 and said the Taliban had claimed responsibility for the attack.
Acting district police officer Zishan Haider told journalists that the young suicide bomber wearing the uniform of Major Aziz Bhatti Shaheed Army School and College entered the parade area of the heavily-guarded centre and blew himself up.
He said the 15-year-old bomber targeted army personnel during the routine parade. The injured were taken to the Combined Military Hospital in the town and 30 of them whose condition was serious were taken to the Rawalpindi CMH.
Mr Haider said that eight to nine kilograms of explosives had been used in the attack. The students, teachers and other staff of the school were safe. “We cordoned off the area and started a search operation after the attack,” he said.
According to a press release issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations, at least 20 personnel lost their lives and 20 others suffered injuries.
It was the third attack on army personnel in Mardan. In May 2008, a suicide bomber blew himself up near a military bakery, killing 11 army men and civilians and injuring 18 others. In July last year, five militants, three suicide bombers among them, were killed in a botched attack on a paramilitary training centre.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Senior Minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour visited the Mardan CMH and inquired after the health of injured personnel.
He condemned the attack and termed it a cowardly act by anti-state elements. Terrorists, he said, could not demoralise the nation through such terrorist activities.
“We will continue anti-terrorist strikes till their complete elimination from the region. The war against terror is actually an unannounced third world war which is being fought on our soil by different world forces,” Mr Bilour told reporters.
AFP adds: The Taliban claimed responsibility and threatened ‘bigger attacks’ in coming days to avenge US drone strikes and Pakistani military operations in the tribal belt.
“We proudly claim this suicide attack,” Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq told the news agency by telephone from an undisclosed location.
“The death toll has now reached 31 recruits. Thirty-six have been injured, 16 of them are critical,” Abdullah Khan, a senior police officer in Mardan said.