MINGORA, Pakistan – A homicide bomber killed at least 14 police recruits Sunday in Pakistan's Swat Valley in the deadliest attack since the army regained control over the northwestern valley from the Taliban, an official said.
The blast in the yard of the main police station in Mingora, Swat's main town, came one day after the army said it had destroyed a major training camp for homicide bombers. It indicated the Taliban is still able to sow destruction and fear even though their hard-line Islamist rule in the valley is over.
Members of a new community police force were training to patrol the region when the attacker sneaked up and detonated his explosives, provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told local television Geo by telephone.
Television footage showed officers gathering up mutilated bodies outside the police station, which had already been bombed twice before in recent months.
At least 14 bodies of police volunteers in uniform were brought to the local hospital and eight wounded recruits were being treated, hospital official Ikram Khan told The Associated Press.
Local police chief Idrees Khan said at least 20 were wounded and a dozen killed.
Khan denied rumors that the attacker was in uniform and might have been one of the police volunteers.
"No, we don't have any such report, but yes, a homicide bomber sneaked into the training for recruits," he told reporters at the scene in footage broadcast on local television.
He blamed the attack on a decision to relax a daily curfew in the area for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
"We are reinforcing security," he said.
Police blocked roads around the area soon after the midday blast. Local markets quickly shuttered and authorities ordered residents to stay inside.
Pakistan's army says it is restoring security in Swat and surrounding areas after a three-month military offensive wrested the valley back from Taliban control, but homicide attacks and skirmishes continue.
"After the massive operation in Swat such incidents are expected," Hussain said.
On Saturday, the army said helicopter gunships had destroyed a training camp outside Mingora that it said was responsible for most of the recent homicide attacks.
In July, the military had declared Mingora and the surrounding areas cleared of militants except for small pockets of resistance.