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Two-year-old among 16 killed in explosions at Pakistan police office

Around 63 people are injured in the blasts, out of which eight are in critical condition, police say

Shweta Sharma
Tuesday 25 April 2023 10:24 BST
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Rescue teams search for victims in the rubble of a badly damaged building a day after multiple explosions caused by fire in a munitions cache levelled a specialist counter-terrorism police station in Kabal
Rescue teams search for victims in the rubble of a badly damaged building a day after multiple explosions caused by fire in a munitions cache levelled a specialist counter-terrorism police station in Kabal (AFP via Getty Images)

At least 16 people, including a two-year-old child and several police officers, have been killed in two powerful explosions at a counter-terrorism office in Pakistan’s Swat valley.

Around 63 people were injured, out of which eight were in critical condition, police said.

The blasts blew off the roof of the office and a mosque in the compound of the counter-terrorism office on Monday night around 8.30pm in Swat, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police said on Tuesday that the blasts were not linked to a terrorist attack as it was initially suggested but possibly caused by an electrical short circuit igniting ammunition in the centre.

The blasts were condemned by prime minister Shehbaz Sharif as a “suicide attack” in his first response before he issued a clarification saying the cause was being investigated.

The spokesperson for the provincial police officer said an investigation concluded that short circuits caused the explosions, setting ammunition on fire.

“No evidence of an attack from outside has been established so far.”

The regional chief of the counter-terrorism department Sohail Khalid told reporters that the explosions did not appear to be a suicide attack or an outside attack.

“There was a store where we had a huge quantity of weapons, and until now we believe that there might have been some blast in it due to some carelessness” he said, adding, “We are keeping all our options open”.

Videos and pictures in the aftermath of the blasts showed destroyed cars and downed trees at the facility, which also houses a police station and the headquarters of a reserve police force.

Disturbing visuals showed bodies being pulled out of the rubble as the fire continued to blaze.

There were nine police causalities and six civilians, including a two-year-old boy, reported Dawn.

“Strongly condemn suicide attack on CTD police station in Swat. Nation is deeply grieved over martyrdom of police officials. Our police has been the first line of defence against terrorism. We will not rest until we eliminate this scourge. My condolences to bereaved families,” Mr Sharif said on Monday.

But he said in a late-night post that the “blast is being investigated and as soon as the security agencies reach the conclusion, it will be shared with the nation”.

A rescue operation is also underway since Monday to pull out people from the compound. Around 100 rescue workers with heavy machinery were carrying out the operation.

The two explosions occurred at the interval of 12 minutes, sparking a fire, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa inspector general Akhtar Hayat said.

He said they are investigating all aspects of the incident with “an open mind”.

The district of Swat lies at the center of the picturesque Swat Valley, and is prone to terrorist attacks because of the stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban.

The group has carried out several attacks in the area targetting security forces since last year.

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