LAKKI MARWAT, Sept 6: A suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into a police station here on Monday, killing 19 people and injuring 57.

Four schoolchildren, aged between nine and 10, a schoolteacher and nine policemen were among the dead in the early morning blast, police said.

(According to Reuters, Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack and warned the government not to use lashkar to fight the group.)

An official said the bomber detonated about 500 to 600 kilograms of explosives in a land behind the police station at around 7 am. The explosion destroyed or damaged adjoining buildings, shops and a mosque.

The official said that policemen were inside the building while local people, including schoolchildren, were passing by when the bomber struck. Several policemen were trapped in the debris.

A rescue operation was launched to pull out the dead and the injured from the debris. The bodies of nine policemen were retrieved from the wreckage.

DCO Muhammad Ayaz Mandokhel, DPO Gul Wali Khan and SSP Investigation Qayyum Jan Marwat supervised the rescue work.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told reporters that 19 people had been killed in the bombing.

“The militants are taking advantage of the flood situation. They know that we are busy in relief and rescue work,” Mr Hussain said. “We are not going to lower our guard. We need a relentless, comprehensive and effective strategy to chase and hunt them down in their tribal sanctuary. These terrorists can no longer deceive the people in the name of Islam,” said Mr Hussain whose only son was killed recently by terrorists outside his home in Pabbi area.

Government officials insist that while back of militancy has been broken, the scourge is yet to be eradicated.“It will take years,” said a security official. “We will have to live with these attacks for quite some time.”

A security official claimed that the bombing was in retaliation for a raid to capture the mastermind of Shah Hassankhel suicide bombing last year. The mastermind, Sanadullah, alias Sanad, blew himself up when security forces raided his house.

In January a suicide bomber killed 99 people when he drove an explosives-laden car into a crowd of men, women and children watching a volleyball match in Shah Hasan Khan village. Agencies add:

There were some 45 policemen inside the building when the bomber struck the building.

Doctor Ghulam Ali, medical superintendent of Lakki Marwat's main hospital, said that 17 bodies and 45 wounded had been brought to his hospital, which was also damaged in the blast.

“Three schoolboys and a girl waiting for their school van also died in the bombing,” district police chief Gul Wali Khan said.

The information minister said that terrorists were regrouping and they needed to be hit hard.

“We are standing on a powder keg and if an effective action is not taken, it will be a failure of the government,” the minister said.

“It goes to show that the terrorists have no creed except bloodshed and chaos, and are desperately carrying out their agenda regardless of the precarious conditions,” Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani told a meeting of provincial officials.

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