PESHAWAR - At least nine people were killed and 51 others injured Thursday evening when a time bomb exploded in main Tableeghi Markaz (preaching centre) at Pajgi Road of Peshawar.

The blast occurred in a centre run by the peaceful Tablighi Jamaat group in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province which borders Afghanistan and has been hit by numerous bombings in recent years.

“The blast occurred in a preaching centre near the military cantonment when around 800 people were offering evening prayers,” local police official Ijaz Khan said. Eyewitnesses and police said that the device was planted in a vanaspati ghee canister and was placed near Pillar 79 in the last rows of the mosque.

The bomb exploded during the second Rakaat of the Magrib prayer in the crowded hall of the routinely Thursday (Shabbi Jumma) congregation. The intensity of the blast was so high that it jolted the two-floor heavy complex of the Markaz. Eyewitnesses said human flesh and blood was scattered on the ground at the scene.

The co-worshipers rushed for the rescues of the victims and shifted the injured to Lady Reading Hospital. Edhi Ambulances and Rescue 1122 staff also reached in no time and helped in the in the rescue activities. Around 51 injured, 10 of them critical, were taken to Lady Reading Hospital of Peshawar.

Emergency was declared in the casualty ward of the hospital while additional stretchers and beds were arranged in the emergency ward for the seriously injured. Muhammad Arif, deputy medical superintendent at the hospital, confirmed the casualties. He said that 51 wounded were also brought to the hospital. “The death toll from the blast at preaching centre has raised to nine” Provincial Health Minister Shaukat Yousafzi said. “Seven patients are in critical condition and I fear a rise in the death toll” as around 50 others have been injured, he said.

Heavy contingent of police cordoned off the area following the explosion and started a search operation. The main gate of Tableeghi Markaz was closed for the commoners and strict security check was imposed at the entrance point. According to Bomb Disposal Squad AIG Shafqat Malik, around five kilogram explosive material was used in the improvised device which was attached with a time detonator.

Shafqat Malik confirmed “We have defused two remote control bombs recovered from the preaching centre after the blast. Both the bombs were of five kilograms with cellphones attached to them.”

He said the preaching centre had been evacuated and a search operation for more possible bombs was under way.

It is not the first time that peaceful preachers have been targeted as earlier a Tableeghi Markaz was targeted by the terrorists in district Swat where dozens of people were killed and injured. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and al-Qaeda-linked militants have led a bloody campaign against the Pakistani state in recent years.

But TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid denied having any role in the blast. “We don’t kill innocent civilians and we have nothing to do with the blast,” Shahid told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Senior leader of Awami National Party (ANP) Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Pakistan Tehreek Insaf MPA Ashtiaq Urmar and others arrived at the scene and strongly condemned the blast. They also expressed their sympathies for the victims. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Parvez Khattak, PTI central chairman Imran Khan, party spokesman Shereen Mazari also condemned the bomb blast and termed it a conspiracy to derail the ongoing process of dialogue with Taliban.

Staff Reporter from Islamabad adds: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has strongly condemned the bomb explosion at a Tableeghi Markaz on Charsadda Road in Peshawar and has sought report from the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK).

In a message, the minister has expressed grief and sorrow over the loss of precious lives and has directed IGP to submit a detailed report about the incident to the interior ministry.

Bomb recovered from Nowshera’s Tableeghi Markaz

INP adds: A remote-controlled bomb was recovered from the Tableehgi Jamaat Markaz here on Thursday.

The bomb was recovered about an hour after a powerful blast killed at least eight people and injured several others at a Tableeghi center in Peshawar.

According to reports the Markaz was vacated and the bomb disposal squad was called in after the bomb was recovered.

A large number of people associated with the Tableelghi Jamaat attended religious gatherings across the country on Thursday.