Thursday, February 25, 2021

Religious school blast kills 7 in Pakistan Taliban stronghold

The blast follows a regrouping of Pakistani Taliban forces after an army crackdown, and could signal a return to large-scale terrorism by the group.

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At least seven people have been killed and more than 70 injured in a blast at a madrasa on Tuesday in the northern Pakistani city of Peshawar, according to local police.

An eyewitness has told the police he saw a man enter the building with a bag of explosives shortly before the blast. The man reportedly left the lecture hall before the blast.

Peshawar’s superintendent of police Waqar Azeem said the explosion occurred at 8.30am during the morning’s first Quran study lesson in a class of around 60.

Lady Reading Hospital spokesman, Mohammad Asim, told CNN there were children among the injured. “Most of those killed and injured were hit by ball bearings and some were badly burnt,” he said.

Earlier reports suggested four of the dead were children, but this has since been retracted.

No group has yet claimed responsibility but the area has in the past seen several Taliban atrocities.

The city of Peshawar, close to the Afghan border, has seen some of the worst of the violence during the Taliban insurgency in recent years. Six years ago, gunmen stormed a military school in the city leaving more than 150 dead, most of them children.

Following that attack, Pakistan’s army launched a massive offensive to wipe out militant bases in the area and end the near decade-long insurgency that cost thousands of lives.

The area has been relatively calm following that military campaign but the Pakistani Taliban have been regrouping in recent months with several offshoots coming together in a pact, raising fears the jihadists may be regaining strength after launching a string of small-scale attacks on security forces along the border, AFP reports.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed “regret over the loss of tragic lives”, strongly condemning the blast.

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