Two explosions at a counterterrorism police compound in northern Pakistan killed at least 15 people and injured dozens late Monday, police officials said, after months of escalating terrorist attacks that raised alarm across the country.
Pakistani Taliban militants have repeatedly targeted police, particularly counterterrorism department officials, in recent months. And the area where the attack took place, the Swat Valley in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, has seen a notable increase in militant activity.
But investigators insist there is no evidence the deadly explosion – which also injured at least 57 people, according to local officials – was caused by an attack. Police officials said the explosion took place in the basement of the police compound, where mortar rounds and other weapons and ammunition seized from militants had been stored, and that an electrical short or spontaneous explosion may have caused the explosion.
Nasir Mehmood Satti, deputy inspector general of police, said the initial investigation showed “recklessness”.
The first powerful explosion forced the roof of the complex's main structure to collapse and damaged a nearby mosque and several homes in the town, Kabal. Several police officers were trapped under the rubble of the police station and were pulled out, officials said.
According to police officers, the building was in a dilapidated state, and most of the personnel and equipment had recently been moved.
The injured were transferred to various hospitals in Swat, local health officials said. The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Health Department declared a health emergency in Swat and placed all hospitals on red alert.
Since the takeover of neighboring Afghanistan by the Afghan Taliban in 2021, the Pakistani Taliban – Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, also known as TTP – has made a comeback in parts of Pakistan and has waged an increasingly intense campaign against security forces.
Murad Saeed, a former member of Parliament affiliated with former Prime Minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, insisted that the blast must have been a terrorist attack.
“The attack is similar to the one that targeted the police in Peshawar,” Saeed said in a video message, referring to suicide bombings in the provincial capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa this year that killed more than 100 people.
A group of activists in Swat also rejected the police claims, calling the explosion an act of terrorism and stating that they would organize a protest in the valley on Tuesday.
“Today's protest will show that the people of Swat are a peace-loving people and will not allow any element, be it the Taliban or the state, to sabotage their hard-earned peace again,” said Zaman Shah, 32, a Kabal resident. .
Swat, a beautiful northern valley, has long carried the scars of terrorism, and of the resulting military campaigns to eradicate it.
Swat had been a popular tourist destination before falling to the Taliban in late 2007. Militants imposed their version of Islam on local residents, killing community leaders, blowing up girls' schools and forcing men to grow beards and beards. attending prayers — sometimes whipping and even beheading the guilty in public.
In 2009, the Pakistani military launched a major military offensive against militants in Swat and managed to wrest control of the region from them after months of fighting.
Swat is also home to Malala Yousafzai, an activist for girls' education in the region who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban in 2012. Yousafzai, who was 15 years old at the time of the attack, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for her advocacy work.
Last August, the armed militant group reported to have reappeared in parts of Swat, reigniting fear among residents of the region. The military stressed that reports of a Taliban resurgence in the valley were exaggerated, but fears were already growing even before this week's deadly explosions.
Salman Masud reported from Islamabad, and Zia ur-Rehman from Karachi.