A blast tore through a security-forces vehicle in restive north-west Pakistan on Thursday, killing 30 people and wounding dozens more, officials said.
The attack in scenic Swat Valley in the North West Frontier Province was the latest in a wave of violence targeting the military since government troops stormed the al-Qaeda-linked Red Mosque in Islamabad in July.
The blast comes just one day after Pakistan deployed more than 2 000 military troops to the area to bolster efforts to stem the rising violence, which is linked to pro-Taliban militants.
The truck — carrying paramilitary soldiers and packed with ammunition — was travelling on a road outside the valley’s main city of Mingora when the explosion occurred, the security official said.
“Thirty people were killed in the explosion, including 17 paramilitary soldiers. The damage was high because the truck was packed with ammunition,” the official, who asked not to be named, said.
Swat mayor Fazlur Rehman said most of the dead were paramilitary soldiers.
“At least 30 people have died and most of the bodies are completely burned, they are beyond recognition,” Rehman said.
“The blast was so powerful that it destroyed 10 shops and hit a three-wheeler [rickshaw], killing all passengers inside it,” he added.
The government said 20 people were dead but warned the figure may go up.
“Some injured are in critical condition and the death toll may rise,” Interior Ministry spokesperson Javed Cheema said.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
Security sources said a suicide bomber had detonated his explosives near the truck, but Cheema said the vehicle’s cargo could have triggered the explosion.
“The nature of the blast is not clear and it is being ascertained. There was ammunition in the truck which caused the damage,” Cheema said.
Most of the attacks in Pakistan since the Red Mosque raid have been suicide blasts that have killed more than 400 people, according to an Agence France-Presse tally.
The Swat valley was once one of Pakistan’s premier tourist attractions, but the area in the conservative province bordering Afghanistan has become a stronghold of banned group Tahreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi. — AFP