BUNER, Dec 28: At least 36 people were killed in a suspected car bomb attack near a polling station in a government school on Sunday.

Sixteen people were injured in the blast believed to have been carried out to disrupt the by-election for a National Assembly seat.

“It was apparently a suicide attack,” DSP Arsala Khan said, adding: “The bomber detonated his explosive-laden car parked near camps set up by different parties in front of the school in Shalbandi village, 5kms from the district headquarters of Daggar. Buner which is adjacent to the Swat valley had so far been largely peaceful.

The front wall of the school and an adjoining market and were destroyed and a mosque and several houses were damaged.

A villager said that several people were buried in the rubble of the market and thearea was littered with human limbs.

Police said two policemen, a volunteer and five children were among the victims. Their bodies mutilated almost beyond recognition.

According to witnesses, the bomber was about 18 years old and he was wearing a Chitrali cap. A large number of voters were present at the camps when the blast took place.

Police said that security personnel were sifting through the debris to collect evidence.

An official told newsmen that polling had been postponed at 11 polling stations in Shalbandi and Amnawar villages, but continued in other areas of the district.

The Tehrik-i-Taliban Swat claimed responsibility for the attack and said it had been carried out to avenge the killing of its six members in the area four months ago.

The victims included Mansha, Abdur Razaq, Mohammad Nissar, Bakht Rawan, Muzamil, Ali Rehman, Zamir, Makani, Zubair, Zareen, Sher Zamin Shah, Yaseen Shah, Hijjab, Nadar, Qasim, Rozi Khan, Sunbal, Hameed Akbar, Ghani, police constables Sher Taj and Bahadur Zeb, Bakht Zada, Sdiqa, Bakht Zada, Iqrar Ali, Saifur Rehman, Oqaib, Razakar Pervez and Zareen.

The village has been under threat from militants since the formation of a tribal lashkar to combat militancy. A founding member of the lashkar, Said Khan, was killed in Lower Dir when he was retuning after attending a sit-in organised by the Tehrik Nefaz Shariat-i-Mohammadi.

Two boys from the village who studied in Swat were kidnapped by suspected militants last week.

AFP adds: A police official said most of the people injured in the attack were in critical condition.