Suspected Taliban militants bombed a primary school on the outskirts of Peshawar on Tuesday, underscoring the Islamist threat in northwest Pakistan.
Suspected Taliban militants bombed a primary school on the outskirts of Peshawar on Tuesday, underscoring the Islamist threat in northwest Pakistan despite a series of military offensives.
Militants planted explosives to destroy the small school, which educated girls alongside boys and likely provoked the ire of Islamists who oppose the education of women and frequently target girls’ schools.
“The school building, which consisted of three rooms was destroyed in the blast on Tuesday,” local police official Hamzullah Khan told Agence France-Presse.
There were no immediate reports of casualties because the school was closed for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr to mark the end of Ramadan.
“The nature of the blast shows that Taliban are behind the incident,” said Khan. Provincial education official Mohammad Nisar confirmed the attack.
Gunmen have destroyed hundreds of schools since Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked extremists embarked on a concerted campaign of bombings two years ago in which more than 2 000 people have died in the nuclear-armed country.
The army won back control of the northwest Swat district following a blistering summer offensive to defeat a two-year Taliban uprising after the United States branded Islamist extremists an existential threat to Pakistan.
Pakistan has announced a string of high-profile arrests in Swat and this month mounted another offensive in the lawless Khyber district, a main supply line for US and Nato forces in Afghanistan on the edge of Peshawar.
The school bombing came as police said they were investigating a possible assassination attempt on a provincial cabinet minister when they killed a teenage suicide bomber in Totalai village of northwestern Buner district.
“We raided a primary school on intelligence information where four militants were staying,” local police official Noor Jamal told Agence France-Presse.
Three militants ran away as “we opened fire on them while the fourth one died as explosives that he had strapped with his body detonated. We have recovered legs of the bomber from the site,” Jamal said.
It was difficult to determine who was the target of militants, but provincial education minister Sardar Hussain Babak claimed he was the target as he frequently travels on the road where the school is located.
“The attackers were planning to hit me and my uncle,” Babak told Agence France-Presse.
Pakistan says it has cleared Swat, and neighbouring districts Buner and Lower Dir of insurgents and has encouraged almost two million displaced civilians to return home. The UN says about 1,65-million have done so.
The army said on Monday that troops arrested a badly wounded Taliban commander and alleged mastermind of suicide bombers in Swat, Abu Faraj.
“The results are that those who had millions of rupees on their heads have now laid down their arms,” said Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Tuesday at a function to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr festival.
Although skirmishes have continued, analysts have praised the Swat operation as the first major push to quash militancy and urged the military to take on the Taliban leadership in the tribal region of Waziristan.
Pakistan’s new Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud has threatened to avenge his predecessor’s death in a US drone attack.
Hundreds of people have fled the area between the tribal regions of North and South Waziristan on the Afghan border, fearing the military are preparing a new push against militants, security officials said.
“The operation in Swat was a certainly a big success for the government, which took on militants challenging the writ of the government there,” said security analyst Hasan Askari.
“The army has encircled South Waziristan, so there is very little [militant] movement from this region to other areas. They don’t want to get in there until very sure of a walkover”.—AFP