21 soldiers killed in suicide attack

Peshawar: At least 21 soldiers were killed and several others wounded when a suicide bomber disguised as a schoolboy today blew himself up at the parade ground of a heavily guarded army centre in northwest Pakistan.

The bomber struck when soldiers were on parade at the ground inside the Punjab Regimental Centre within the cantonment in Mardan city, 60 km northeast of Peshawar.

The powerful explosion, which occurred at 8.15 am, was heard from several kilometres away.

At least 21 soldiers were killed and about 20 more were injured, police said. The injured were taken to a nearby military hospital, where an emergency was declared.

Officials said several of the injured were in a serious condition. Witnesses were quoted by TV news channels as saying that the young bomber was wearing a school uniform. A school run by the army is located near the parade ground.

Security forces sealed the area after the blast and blocked all roads leading to the Punjab Regimental Centre.

Markets near the army centre were closed after the blast. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Such suicide attacks are usually blamed on the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. Taliban militants have launched at least two attacks on this army centre in Mardan in the past.