A suicide bomber blew himself up in a busy market in the troubled Swat valley [ Images ] in northwest Pakistan on Saturday, killing at least three persons and injuring 12 others, police said.
The attack occurred shortly after security forces arrested a would-be suicide bomber and shot dead two militants in Mingora, the main city in Swat district, police officials said. The bomber struck in a market located near Sohrab Khan Chowk in Mingora.
The explosion killed three civilians. Hospital officials described the condition of three of the injured as critical. Shortly before the blast, security forces arrested a would-be suicide attacker at Green Chowk, the main square in Mingora.
Acting on information provided by the arrested man, troops moved to Sohrab Khan Chowk and surrounded a house where some militants were believed to be hiding.
The security forces shot dead two militants in the house. A third militant ran out of the house and exploded his suicide vest at the market near Sohrab Khan Chowk, officials said.
Deputy Inspector General of Police (Malakand division) Qazi Jameel told the media that one of the militants gunned down by security forces was carrying some detonators. Sohrab Khan Chowk is located about 100 meters from Green Chowk. The two squares are the busiest areas of Mingora.
Huge plumes of smoke were seen billowing from the site of the blast, which caused widespread panic in the city.
Footage on television showed people carrying the injured away from the site as army soldiers and policemen cordoned off the area and launched a search operation.
The powerful blast damaged a dozen shops.
All markets in Mingora closed down soon after the explosion. Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti condemned the attack, describing it as a cowardly act. He ordered a probe into the incident and directed officials to provide the best possible treatment to victims.
DIG Qazi Jameel said the situation in Swat was better than before but militants were still trying to carry out attacks to create fear among the people and cause casualties.
He said the market was chosen as a target by the bomber as it is a public area and an explosion there could cause more casualties.
Most parts of Swat were controlled by Taliban [ Images ] fighters led by radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah till the army launched a major offensive last year to flush out the militants. The army claims Swat has been cleared of the militants.However, militants have carried out several attacks and gunned down at least five people, including a mayor, who opposed the Taliban in recent weeks.