KARACHI: At least 21 people were reported dead and 70 others were injured on Thursday when an explosion ripped through a religious centre in Swat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The blast targeted the Tableeghi Markaz on Takhtaband Road on the outskirts of Mingora town.
“We have received 21 dead bodies from the site of the blast,” Dr Jamil, In-charge Casualties at the DHQ Hospital Mingora, told Dawn.com.
“The death toll may rise as some of the injured are in critical condition and we are receiving more and more injured people,” said Dr Niaz Mohammad had told Reuters.
Mystery shrouded the nature of the explosion, as some officials said the blast was caused by a bomb or explosive device, while others said it was result of an exploding gas cylinder.
Mohammad Hanif Khan, the Station House Officer (SHO) at the local police station, said that there was no smell of explosives from the site, and that the building had also remained intact which showed that the blast may not have been caused by explosives
He added that some elders had said that a number of cylinders were lying at the religious centre.
However, an injured man said no gas cylinders were nearby.
“There was no cylinder where the blast took place. We all know that gas cylinder does not kill so many people,” said another one of the injured, Mohambar Khan.
However, he said that police had sent the evidence collected from the spot for further investigation and would be giving the final version after a comprehensive assessment.
Earlier, Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) official Qayyum Shah had said that a bomb, in the shape of an improvised explosive device, was planted inside the centre.
The explosion took place at a weekly meeting of the local Tableeghi Jamaat (preachers’ party) at its primary centre in the outskirts of Mingora, the main town in the district, regional police chief Akhtar Hayat said.
There were around 1,500 people listening to the speech of a Muslim cleric at the centre when the blast occurred.
The centre is located at least 10 kilometres away from Mingora, the main town in Swat district.
The area was once under the control of militants and had set up check posts before the army undertook an operation in 2009 to rid the area of Taliban-linked groups.
Takhtaband road, which is the main link road in the region, was the site of several suicide blasts and attacks on military personnel during the operation.
The religious centre, however, is known to belong to the Tableeghi Jamaat (congregation for spreading faith), which is not linked to any militant organisation.