At least seven people including four children were injured when a roadside bomb went off in Peshawar city in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Tuesday morning.
Rescue officials have said the incident took place opposite a school on a major thoroughfare in the morning when an improvised explosive device went off in the middle of the road.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
Peshawar police cordoned off the area to continue their investigation while the injured were shifted to Lady Reading Hospital. The police in a statement added that it is too early to determine who the target was.
An eight-year-old child was seriously injured, while the others were in a stable condition, officials said. The four children are all of “school-going age,” but were not in uniform, Asim Khan, a spokesperson for the hospital, told Al Jazeera. “They are all kept in the hospital for further monitoring.” The youngest of the injured children is six; the others are 14 and 17 years old.
The attack comes amid a surge of violence in Pakistan, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the southwestern province of Balochistan, both of which neighbour Afghanistan.
Last week gunmen attacked a bus in Chilas town in northern Pakistan, in which at least eight people were killed and nearly two dozen were injured. On November 3, a police checkpoint was attacked in Dera Ismail Khan city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, killing another five people. A day later, a group of fighters targeted the Pakistani Air Force’s training base in Mianwali city.
Data shared by Islamabad-based research organisation the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS) shows a total of 63 attacks by armed groups during November, causing at least 83 deaths.
The PICSS database reveals that there were at least 599 attacks in the year till November end, killing almost 900 people. The number of attacks shows an 81 percent increase from the corresponding period in 2022.
The attacks have skyrocketed since Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – a banned group ideologically aligned with the Afghan Taliban – unilaterally ended its ceasefire with the government last year in November.
Islamabad has demanded the Afghan Taliban stop providing safe havens to the TTP, which is allegedly seeking shelter in Afghanistan, a charge denied by Kabul.
Analysts are also concerned that this further intensification in attacks could indicate an expansion of the conflict in the country.
Abdul Basit, research fellow at S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said that while the ISIL (ISIS) regional group, the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, (ISKP), has often hit soft targets such as places of worship in the past, they don’t usually target schools.
No group has claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attack so far.
With elections on the horizon, Basit said that armed groups going after soft targets such as children and other civilians will only increase challenges for law enforcement authorities.
“We have a refugee crisis going on as there’s a standoff between Afghanistan and Pakistan. When such soft targets are attacked, this stretches out security forces, thins out their reach, increases security cost and dents the confidence of the public greatly,” he said.
Peshawar witnessed one of Pakistan’s deadliest attacks in 2014, when armed fighters targeted a school, killing more than 130 students.