BANNU / PESHAWAR: A suicide bombing targeting a mosque near a police station in Bannu and two roadside bomb blasts in Peshawar, one of which hit a school van, left 20 people dead and 27 injured on Wednesday.
In the first suicide attack of the year, the bomber rammed his explosive-packed jeep into the mosque near the police station in the evening, killing 18 people and injuring 17 others, police and health workers said.
The bomber struck at a time when 50 to 60 people were offering Maghrib prayers in the mosque. Personnel of law-enforcement agencies and civilians were among the dead and the injured. Some passersby also suffered injuries.
The bombing completely destroyed the mosque while the police station and a few nearby houses were badly damaged. Local people and police carried out the rescue work.
A spokesman for the banned Tehreek Taliban Pakistan, Ihsanullah Ihsan, claimed responsibility and vowed to carry out more such attacks.
Talking to Dawn by phone from an unknown location, he said the bomber was on a special mission, adding that the government was following US dictation.
Officials said that the jeep used in the attack came from Janikhel area, adjacent to North Waziristan. Police and Frontier Constabulary jointly manned the police station.“About 60 people, including personnel, were saying prayers in the mosque when the bombing took place,” an official said, adding that personnel of police and Frontier Constabulary were among the dead and the injured.
Abdullah Khan, a government official, said that 18 bodies were lying in city’s district headquarters hospital while 17 injured people were brought to the hospital.
He said that condition of four people was critical and they might be shifted to Peshawar. In the other incident, a roadside bomb hit a van of Froebel School, on the main Pejagi Road, killing two woman teachers, both sisters, and injuring eight others in Peshawar.
The sisters were identified as Nazaka (55) and Samina (60) of Nishtarabad, Peshawar.
Some of the injured students were identified as Arifa (23), Mahnor (5), Afsheen (20), Nausheen (25), Munsif (5), Abdul Wahab (17) Mumtaza (17) and Mumtaz Khan (55). Another roadside bomb, however, could not fully explode.
A police official said that the first bomb had targeted the van of Froebel School while the second explosive had targeted police, but could not completely explode.
Both the bombs had been planted within metres of each other near an electric tower.
An official of the bomb disposal unit said that both bombs weighed about six kilograms and contained ball bearings and nails of steel.
“The second bomb could not fully explode as its quality was very low and things like batteries, cables were recovered from the spot,” the official said.
He said had the second bomb exploded, it would have caused heavy casualties.
Capital City Police Officer Peshawar Liaquat Ali told journalists that police had launched search operations in all localities and several militants had been arrested.
He said police had ramped up security in all sensitive areas and militants, in an act of desperation, were targeting school vans and places on the outskirts of Peshawar.
It was the third attack on a school van over the past several months. Militants had tried to target a van of the Peshawar Model School near Hassan Garhi, Peshawar, on Jan 6, but students escaped unhurt. Two passersby were injured.
A van of Sir Syed Islamia Model School, Peshtakhra, was targeted on Charkhakhel Road, Peshawar, on Dec 13, leaving a student dead and some other students injured.
About 20 schools, both government and private, were blown up in Peshawar last year.