Death toll from Swat police station explosions rises to 17; fact-finding committee formed

Published April 25, 2023
Security officials inspect the site a day after multiple explosions caused by fire in a munitions cache levelled a specialist counter-terrorism police station in Kabal town of Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Tuesday. — AFP
Security officials inspect the site a day after multiple explosions caused by fire in a munitions cache levelled a specialist counter-terrorism police station in Kabal town of Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Tuesday. — AFP

The death toll from Monday’s twin blasts at the Kabal police station in Swat rose to 17 on Tuesday, officials said, while the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government formed a fact-finding committee to probe into the incident.

Two explosions rocked the police station a day earlier, which occurred on the premises of the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) office.

KP Inspector General of Police (IGP) Akhtar Hayat Gandapur visited Kabal Police Lines today where he said, while speaking to the media, that the death toll from the blast had reached 17.

“Among the deceased are five suspects who were in CTD police’s custody,” he added.

He further said that preliminary investigation showed blasts were not an act of terrorism and occurred after explosives arms and ammunition stored in a police depot caught fire.

According to the preliminary investigation, there were no indications of forced entry or gunshots, he said, adding that explosive weapons and ammunition — seized by police during various operations — station caught fire.

The two explosions occurred within an interval of 12 minutes and rocked the Kabal tehsil, the IGP said.

The official added that further details were being gathered.

Hayat pledged to examine all aspects of the incident “with an open mind”, citing the sensitive nature of the area that required a person to cross two gates to enter the premises.

The IGP confirmed that the authorities were currently reviewing the video footage of the crime scene. Security officials across the province were on high alert, he added.

Separately, senior CTD officer Khalid Sohail told AFP that 300 kilogrammes of explosives including anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, artillery shells, and mortars were stored in the basement of the police station in addition to improvised explosive devices and suicide vests that had been recovered from the custody of terrorists.

He further stated that bomb disposal squads had begun investigations into the cause of the explosions and the subsequent collapse of the police station.

IGP Hayat also attended the funeral prayers of the policemen martyred in the incident and laid wreaths on their bodies.

Besides him, Peshawar Corps Commander Lieutenant General Sardar Hassan Azhar Hayat, KP Frontier Corps IG Major General Noor Wali Khan and KP Chief Secretary Nadeem Aslam Choudri also visited Kabal Police Lines today.

Fact-finding committee formed

The KP government also constituted a fact-finding committee to probe the incident.

The development was notified by the KP Home Department, which issued a notification saying: “The competent authority is pleased to constitute the following fact-finding committee into the blasts at the CTD Police Station Kabal, in the night of April 24, 2023, with the direction to submit a comprehensive report covering all aspects of the incident.”

The committee comprises KP Home Secretary Abid Majeed Khan and Additional IG Special Branch Saqib Ismail Memon.

Rescue operation under way

Meanwhile, Rescue 1122 spokesperson Shafiqa Gul told Dawn.com that a rescue operation was under way at the blast site for the second day, in which about 100 rescue officials and heavy machinery were participating.

She said the deceased hailed from Swat, Mardan, Lower Dir, Upper Dir, Shangla, Buner, Malakand and Chitral. “Around 13 bodies have been sent to the deceased’s hometowns,” she added.

Separately, KP Health Secretary Mahmood Aslam Wazir said hospitals across Swat had been put on high alert. An emergency had also been declared at Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital to cope with emergencies.

He said all the staff was directed to report to their duty stations while Swat’s regional blood centre had been mobilised to provide blood immediately to the hospitals.

DC’s report

Earlier, a report issued by the Office of Swat Deputy Commissioner today, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, said two consecutive explosions took place inside the CTD police station inside Kabal Police Lines at 8:29pm on Monday night.

The explosions, which shattered the roof of the police station, the CTD office, and a mosque located inside the station, were also followed by a fire.

The report put the number of injured at 63 at the time, stating that eight of them were in critical condition.

Protests

Swat residents stage a protest in the Kabal Olasi Pasoon area on Tuesday, following twin blasts at the Kabal police station in the valley on Monday night. — Photo by Fazal Khaliq
Swat residents stage a protest in the Kabal Olasi Pasoon area on Tuesday, following twin blasts at the Kabal police station in the valley on Monday night. — Photo by Fazal Khaliq

While authorities, citing preliminary probe findings, attributed the blasts to arms and ammunition catching fire, the residents of Swat remained unconvinced and took to the streets demanding peace in the area.

Protests were staged in multiple areas of Swat on Tuesday, raising doubts that the explosions were not an act of terrorism.

The protesters demanded an end to terrorism in the area and an independent and transparent inquiry to ascertain the “reality of the blasts” so that facts could be brought to light.

Condemnations

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif issued a particularly strong condemnation, denouncing the explosion at the police station and said that the nation was in deep mourning over the loss of the police officials who were martyred.

“We will not rest until we eliminate this scourge. My condolences to bereaved families,” he wrote in the tweet.

The premier assured the nation that the details surrounding the blast will be disclosed once the investigation has concluded.

President Arif Alvi also conveyed his condolences to the families of the victims and expressed his sadness at the loss of life caused by the blast.

PTI Chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan offered his condolences to the families of the victims. He also expressed his hopes for a speedy recovery for those who were injured in the incident.


Additional input from AFP

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