Seven students martyred in Peshawar seminary bomb blast

By: News Desk      Published: 10:16 AM, 27 Oct, 2020
Seven students martyred in Peshawar seminary bomb blast

At least seven students were martyred and over a hundred more wounded Tuesday in a bomb attack on a study class at a religious school in Peshawar, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

Hundreds of people including children had been taking a lesson at Jamia Zuberia Madrassa of Speen Jamaat mosque in Peshawar's Dir Colony on Kohat Road when the explosion tore through the madrassa in Peshawar, said Waqar Azim, a senior police official. "The blast took place in a seminary during a Holy Quran class. Someone took a bag inside the seminary," Azim told AFP. He added that the person who had brought in the bag left the lecture hall before the blast.

The bombing happened as a prominent religious scholar during a special class was delivering a lecture about the teachings of Islam at the main hall.

Mohammad Ali Gandapur, another senior police official, said at least seven people had been killed with more than 100 wounded.

Senior Superintendent of Police (Operations) Mansoor Aman confirmed the explosion, saying that initial reports suggest an improvised explosive device (IED) was used in the explosion. "Five kgs of explosives were used in the blast."

The area has been cordoned off and police teams are collecting evidence, he added.

Television footage from the scene of the blast showed significant damage to the interior of the mosque’s main prayer hall, with pockmarks dotting the ceiling and debris strewn across the floor.

Speaking to reporters, Peshawar city’s police chief Muhammad Ali Khan confirmed seven deaths. “This happened at 8:30am, children were reading the Quran here. That is when the explosion occurred,” he said.

Shortly after the attack, residents rushed to the seminary to check up on their sons or relatives who were studying there. Many relatives were gathering at the Lady Reading Hospital, where the dead and wounded students were brought by police in ambulances and other vehicles.

Some Afghan students studying at the seminary were also among the wounded persons, officials said.

From his hospital bed, a wounded student, Mohammad Saqib, 24, said religious scholar Rahimullah Haqqani was explaining verses from the Holy Quran when suddenly they heard a deafening sound and then cries and saw blood-stained students crying for help. 

“Someone helped me and put me in an ambulance and I was brought to the hospital,” he said. 

Saqib had bandages on both arms but he was listed in a stable condition.

Another witness, Saeed Ullah, 24, said up to 500 students were present at the seminary’s main hall at the time of explosion. He said teachers were also among those who were wounded in the bombing. 

A video filmed by a student at the scene showed the Islamic scholar Haqqani delivering a lecture when the bomb exploded. It was unclear whether the teacher was among the wounded persons.

The death toll was confirmed by Mohammad Asim Khan, a spokesman at a local hospital, who told AFP that seven bodies and 112 wounded people including children had been taken to the facility. "Most of those killed and injured were hit by the ball bearings and some were badly burnt," he said.

He stated that the injured were being provided with immediate medical attention and the hospital's director was present at the emergency ward. He added that an emergency had also been declared at the medical facility.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra visited the site of the blast. Speaking to reporters, he said that the focus was on providing the injured the best possible treatment to increase their chances of recovery.

All of the dead were men aged between 20 and 40, he said. Teachers and boys as young as 7 were among the wounded. No group claimed immediate responsibility for the attack. 

The blast follows months of relative calm in Pakistan. Peshawar was once the epicentre of militant violence in the country, with terrorists targeting security forces and public spaces in the city near the northwestern frontier with Afghanistan.

Violence in Pakistan has declined in recent years following a series of military operations along the border, but militant groups are still able to carry out deadly attacks.

In 2014, the Pakistan Army launched a massive offensive to wipe out militant bases in the area and end the near decade-long insurgency that has cost thousands of lives.

The operation was intensified after the Pakistani Taliban killed more than 150 people, the majority of them children, at a school in Peshawar in December 2014.

Still, the Pakistani Taliban have been regrouping in recent months with several factions coming together in a pact, raising fears the militants may be regaining strength after launching a string of small-scale attacks on security forces along the border.

Condemnations

Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the bombing and asked authorities to ensure the provision of best possible medical aid to the victims.

Condemning the incident, KP Labour and Culture Minister Shaukat Ali Yousafzai said Chief Minister Mahmood Khan had summoned a meeting to discuss the security situation. He revealed that Quetta and Peshawar were on threat alert following which security had been heightened. Yousufzai added that the seminary staff and children were soft targets. "Terrorists always aim for soft targets. This area has been peaceful for a long time," he said.

Federal Information Minister Shibli Faraz also strongly condemned the attack, promising to "reduce to dust those with the nefarious intentions to destablise the country".

"Attackers on educated students have nothing to do with humanity," he said on Twitter. "We express our heartfelt condolences to the families of the martyrs and pray for speedy recovery of the injured."

Terming it a "heartbreaking incident", PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz condoled with the victims and their families. "The loss of children in particular has been devastating. It is impossible to imagine and alleviate the grief of the mothers whose laps have become barren," she added.

Last week, the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) had issued a security alert saying there was credible information about possibility of subversive activities.

Last month, at least five people were killed and two injured in a blast in the Akbarpura area of Nowshera. The explosion occurred in a market situated along the Kabul River where some people were collecting scrap material from the stones alongside the river.

Last week, Balochistan government spokesperson Liaquat Ali Shahwani said that National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) had issued a security alert for the public rallies of opposition parties in Quetta and Peshawar, saying there was “credible information” about possibility of subversive activities.

On Sunday, at least four people were killed and two persons sustained injuries after a bomb exploded in Quetta.

With inputs from agencies.