At least 12 killed in blasts at Pakistan counterterrorism office

Police say there were two explosions inside a counterterrorism facility in Kabal, northwest Pakistan.

Pakistan blast
Police said more than 50 people were injured in the blasts [Haseeb Ali/EPA]

Two explosions have rocked a counterterrorism facility in northwest Pakistan, killing at least 12 people and injuring more than 50 others, police said.

Sharifullah Khan, a police official in Kabal, told Al Jazeera that at least 12 people died in the blasts on Monday at the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’s Swat Valley while more than 50 were reported injured.

He added that he doesn’t believe the blasts were caused by “terrorism”. The “explosions occurred after explosive material in the CTD building’s basement caught fire”, he said.

The building complex also houses the Kabal district police station and headquarters of a reserve police force, but the main damage was done at the counterterrorism department building.

Provincial police chief Akhtar Hayat said there was an old ammunition store in the office, and police were probing whether that caused the explosions or if it was an attack.

Two attacks on large police bases have been linked to the Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) since the start of the year.

Most of those killed on Monday were police counterterrorism officers, Hayat said, adding that a woman and her child who were passing by the building were also killed.

Bilal Faizi, spokesman for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s provincial rescue service, said the search for more wounded was still in its initial stages.

The regional hospital administration said it received several wounded people, some of them in critical condition.

Dramatic uptick in attacks

In January, a suicide bomber detonated his vest in a mosque inside a police compound in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing more than 80 officers as the building collapsed and rained down rubble on worshippers.

The following month, five were killed when a TTP suicide squad stormed a police compound in the southern port city of Karachi, prompting an hours-long shootout.

The TTP have long targeted law enforcement officials, who they accuse of conducting extrajudicial executions.

Since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, Pakistan has witnessed a dramatic uptick in attacks focused on its border regions with the country. Islamabad says offensives are being launched from Afghan soil.

Pakistan map

The TTP was founded in 2007, when Pakistani militants fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan splintered off to focus attacks on Islamabad as payback for supporting the United States invasion after the 9/11 attacks.

They controlled swaths of northwest Pakistan including the Swat Valley at the height of their power, but were largely routed by the military after a 2014 school raid that killed nearly 150 people, mostly pupils.

The Swat Valley was also where then-15-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the TTP in 2012 while lobbying for girls’ education, a campaign that later earned her the Nobel Peace Prize.

A shaky six-month ceasefire between the TTP and Islamabad failed in November.

Abid Hussain contributed to this report from Islamabad.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies