A powerful bomb blast ripped through an Islamic seminary on the outskirts of the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar on Tuesday morning, killing at least seven students and wounding 112 others, police and hospital officials said.
The bombing happened as a prominent religious scholar was delivering a lecture about the teachings of Islam at the main hall of the Jamia Zubairia madrassa, police officer Waqar Azim said. He said initial investigations suggested that the bomb went off minutes after someone left a bag at the seminary.
TV footage showed the madrassa’s damaged main hall, where the bomb exploded. The hall was littered with broken glass and its carpet stained with blood. Police said at least 11 pounds of explosives were used in the attack.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Peshawar, the provincial capital of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, bordering Afghanistan. The province has been the scene of militant attacks in recent years, but sectarian violence has also killed or wounded people at mosques or seminaries across Pakistan.
Several of the wounded students were in critical condition, and hospital authorities feared the death toll could climb. Authorities said some seminary teachers and employees were also wounded in the bombing.
Almost all of the students were in their mid-20s.
China’s oppression of Muslims reaches beyond Xinjiang into Pakistan. Why does it stay quiet?
Shortly after the attack, residents rushed to the seminary to check on sons or relatives studying there. Many relatives gathered at the city’s main 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, officials said.
From his hospital bed, a wounded student, Mohammad Saqib, 24, said religious scholar Rahimullah Haqqani was explaining verses from the Quran when suddenly they heard a deafening sound, followed by cries and the sight of bloodied students asking for help.
“Someone helped me and put me in an ambulance and I was brought to hospital,” said Saqib, who had bandages on both arms but was listed in stable condition.
Pakistan’s high court accepts an appeal by slain U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl’s family to keep one of his alleged killers on death row over the slaying.
Another witness, Saeed Ullah, 24, said up to 500 students were present at the seminary’s main hall at the time of the explosion.
Mohammad Asim, a spokesman at the Lady Reading Hospital, said that seven students died and that the hospital received 70 wounded people, mostly seminary students. Another hospital was treating 42 others.
The attack comes days after Pakistani intelligence alerted that militants could target public places and important buildings, including seminaries and mosques across Pakistan, including Peshawar.
Two days ago, a bombing in the southwestern city of Quetta killed three people. The Pakistani Taliban have been targeting public places, schools, mosques and the military across the country since 2001, when Pakistan joined the U.S.-led “war on terror” following the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.
Since then, insurgents have declared war on the government of Pakistan and carried out numerous attacks, including a brutal assault on an army-run school in the city of Peshawar in 2014 that killed 140 children and several teachers.