KOHAT: At least 28 people, four policemen among them, were killed and 55 injured when a suicide bomber exploded his vehicle at a checkpoint in Hangu bazaar on Thursday.
Police said the death toll could rise because the condition of 13 injured people admitted to the Hangu district headquarters hospital was critical.
Three of the dead policemen have been identified as Constables Tanveer, Kahandan and Falaknaz.
Officials said the pick-up was laden with 450kg of explosives. It was detonated by the bomber as soon as he reached the police post.
The nearby official residence of the district coordination officer, offices of the Hangu police chief and the special branch, the city police station, 17 shops, three restaurants, buildings of district courts and a branch of the National Bank were severely damaged.
The attack took place at about 6pm and the vehicle also carried rockets and grenades, adding to the devastation.
Bomb disposal personnel said the engine of the vehicle and some parts of the bomber’s body had been found.
Hangu SP (Investigation) Iftikhar Ahmed said the pick-up came from the western side, using unfrequented routes to evade several checkpoints on the road to Kurram Agency.
He said it was impossible to keep an eye on the movement of every militant and vehicle along the two tribal agencies located close to the area as there were dozens of mountainous and other routes to enter Hangu.
The explosion flattened a market and several other buildings.
The official said two policemen were missing and could be among the unrecognisable bodies.
An official in the Hangu special branch said the explosion had shaken their building and they were working in darkness.
A Taliban spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, called journalists to claim responsibility for the attack.
According to sources, the lower parts of Kurram and Orakzai Agencies are infested with militants of the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who are involved in killings and kidnappings of tribesmen on the Thall-Parachinar highway. The Pakistani Taliban’s Hakeemullah Mehsud, Noor Jamal alias Toofan Mullah, Hafiz Saeed and Qari Ziaur Rehman use the area as a launching pad for their attacks.
Recently, the Haqqani group of Afghanistan has also begun using Kurram Agency as an alternative base because of drone attacks in North Waziristan.