27 soldiers killed as teenage bomber hits Pak army centre

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A Muhammad

Peshawar, Feb 10 (PTI) A teenage suicide bomber inschool uniform penetrated an elite Pakistani army trainingcentre at Mardan in northwest region today unleashing hislethal payload in midst of a parade, killing 27 soldiers andwounding 40 others.

"It was a suicide attack. The teenage bomber came onfoot and was wearing a school uniform," senior police officerAbdullah Khan said. He said 27 army personnel were killed and40 others injured, most of them critically.

An army spokesman confirmed the incident but put thecasualty toll at 20.

Police said the condition of some of the injured wascritical and the toll could go up.

The hit on the Punjab Regimental Centre was one of theworst strikes on the Pakistan army deeply involved for lasttwo years in operations in the restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhawaprovince bordering Afghanistan to flush out Taliban militants.

The blast from the explosives apparently carried in aschool bag was so devastating that it blew up soldiers takingpart in the parade, scattering their limbs, eyewitnesses said.

Police said an examination of the body parts at thescene indicated that the bomber was a boy aged around 15.

It was not immediately clear how the bomber got intothe heavily guarded centre undetected. An attack on the samefacility in 2006 had killed 35 soldiers.

Troops sealed off the area and even policemen had adifficult time getting through. The local army hospitaldeclared an emergency as ambulances rushed in casualties.

The forces have taken the charge of rescue operationin its hand. Civilian rescue agencies and media were notallowed entry in the heavily protected military facility.

No particular militant group immediately claimedresponsibility for the attack. But the Tehreek-e-TalibanPakistan has carried out similar attacks earlier.

Mardan is 50 kilometers away from the Mohmand tribaldistrict where the army recently launched a major attack.

Officials have said more than 25,000 people have fled the areain the past one week.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned theattack, saying "such cowardly attacks cannot affect the moraleof the security agencies and the resolve of the nation toeradicate terrorism." PTI MUH RHL ZH AKD

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