17 dead in Pak madrasa blast

17 dead in Pak madrasa blast

Seminary was being used to make bombs; Swat displaced start returning home

 Meanwhile, six Taliban militants were killed in a skirmish with security forces in South Waziristan tribal region.

The explosives were stored in the home of madrasa teacher Riaz Ali, locals said. Ali was a member of a banned religious group, officials said.

Police and rescue service officials told reporters that 16 people, including several children, were killed in the blast, which also destroyed dozens of houses.

Muhammad Yousuf Soomra, health officer of Khanewal district, said the toll could rise as more bodies were feared to be buried under the rubble of collapsed homes.

It was not immediately known what triggered the blast. Rescue workers found parts of shells and bombs, grenades, rockets and suicide jackets in the rubble. Officials said the seminary was being used to make bombs.

‘Jihadi’ material, including cassettes with militant propaganda and pamphlets of the Harkat-ul-Jehad al-Islami terrorist group, were also found in the debris of Ali’s house, Geo News channel reported.

Hunt for Mehsud

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Army is expected to launch a major campaign against Taliban chief Mehsud and his network in South Waziristan after wrapping up its operations against militants in Swat and nearby districts.

Additional troops have already been deployed in the semi-autonomous tribal region, where recent air strikes have targeted militant hideouts and training centres in Mehsud’s stronghold.

Displaced return

As hundreds of people displaced by the fighting in Swat began returning to their homes on Monday, troops continued their search and clearance operations in the area. During the past 24 hours, troops arrested four militants in different areas of Malakand division, the military said.

Two militants were arrested with machine guns and ammunition during a search at Kandla village near Kalam, a former Taliban stronghold. A jirga handed over a suspected militant to security forces at Mankial village.

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