At least 22 people were killed and 34 injured when a suicide bomber blew up a truck carrying security personnel and ammunition in the Swat region of Pakistan's restive North West Frontier Province on Thursday.
The attack came a day after thousands of troops were deployed in the valley to counter the activities of pro-Taliban cleric Maulana Fazlullah and his militant followers who are running a parallel government in about 60 villages.
Some TV channels reported that up to 30 people, most of them Frontier Constabulary personnel, died in the attack.
At least 22 people, including 18 Frontier Constabulary men and civilians, died in the attack carried out by a suicide bomber near the police lines in Mingora town, officials were quoted by Dawn News channel as saying.
The truck was taking over 40 personnel and arms and ammunition from the police lines in Mingora to Barikot. The explosion damaged several shops and vehicles and set the truck on fire. The initial blast was followed by a series of explosions as the ammunition in the truck went off. The debris from the truck killed a rickshaw driver. Several people were killed when an overhead electrical line, snapped by the blast, fell on them.
The injured, including 23 security personnel and 11 civilians, were rushed to nearby hospitals. Several of the injured were said to be in a critical condition.
NWFP Home Secretary Badshah Gul Wazir said additional troops were called in to the province to reassert the writ of the local administration in about 59 villages in the Swat valley where Fazlullah's armed men, under the Shaheen Commando Force, are running a parallel government.
Fazlullah, who has gone underground, had told a larger gathering of his followers on Wednesday that he and his men would oppose any military operation in the area.
"This will not be like (the military operation against) the Lal Masjid, where there were only some students. My trained men and I will go to the mountains to continue our fight," the cleric known as "Mullah Radio" for his fiery FM radio broadcasts told a TV channel.
Meanwhile, the NWFP cabinet decided during a meeting chaired by caretaker Chief Minister Shamsul Mulk in Peshawar to restore public order in Swat district through negotiations. The use of force will be avoided as suggested by a peace jirga, the meeting decided.
It was unanimous on creating a peaceful atmosphere for conducting free and fair polls in the province. Home Secretary Badshah Gul Wazir said over 300 armed miscreants are present in Swat. He said no military operation will be launched in the area but action will be taken against those creating hurdles in efforts to maintain peace and public order.