A suicide bomber killed at least 14 police recruits in Pakistan's Swat valley yesterday, in the deadliest attack since the army regained control over the north-western region from the Taliban.
The blast in the yard of the police station in Mingora, Swat's main town, came one day after the army said it had destroyed a major training camp for suicide bombers. It indicated that while the Taliban's hardline Islamist rule may be over in the valley, life is far from normal even as hundreds of thousands of residents who fled the fighting are returning.
Volunteers for a new community police force were holding their daily drills in the yard adjacent to the station when the attacker detonated his explosives.
Authorities are investigating reports that the attacker – possibly in uniform – may have hidden among the dozens of recruits.
"Initial investigations suggest the attacker climbed the small boundary wall and blew himself up, but there is also a report the suicide bomber was already inside," local government administrator Atifur Rehman said.
Investigators sifted through the blackened wreckage in the courtyard littered with body parts, shredded uniforms and police berets. At least 14 bodies of uniformed recruits were brought to the local hospital and eight wounded recruits are being treated, a hospital official, Ikram Khan, said.
The local police chief, Idrees Khan, said at least 20 people were wounded and a dozen killed. Speaking on local television, he denied rumours that the bomber was wearing a uniform and might have been one of the police volunteers.
He blamed the attack on a decision to relax a daily curfew in the area for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Police blocked roads around the area soon after the midday blast. Markets were quickly shuttered and the authorities ordered residents to stay inside.