Pakistan police stumped by preaching centre bomb

PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Police investigating a bomb attack on a preaching centre in northwest Pakistan said Friday they had no clear idea who could have been behind the blast.

The blast at an Islamic preaching centre in troubled Peshawar city on Thursday evening killed at least nine preachers and wounded more than 50, officials said.

The Pakistani Taliban strongly denied any link to the attack on the centre run by Tableeghi Jamaat, a respected organisation which enjoys good relations with the authorities as well as other religious groups.

"We are investigating it but we cannot blame any group until completion of our investigations," senior police official Mohammad Faisal told AFP on Friday.

Pakistan has been battling a homegrown Islamist insurgency in recent years and Peshawar has been a particular hotspot for bombings.

Militant groups are usually quick to claim responsibility for attacks but no-one has come forward to admit Thursday's blast.

Faisal said the centre was an easy target for the attackers.

"This was the most soft target for the attackers, apparently they want to terrorise the people by bombing innocent people," Faisal said.

Faisal said the bomb was planted inside a can of cooking oil near a pillar in the main hall of the centre.

Medics in the city's main Lady Reading Hospital said 28 injured were still under medical treatment with six in critical condition.

Thursday's attack was the second on a Tableeghi Jamaat centre in recent years.

Last year in January, a similar type of bomb in Pakistan's Swat valley - where schoolgirl rights activist Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head - hit a preaching centre, killing 22 people and wounding more than 80.

Pakistan Taliban also denied any involvement in that bombing.

Residents in Peshawar were in grief and shock over the attack saying it was a peaceful place where they came for worship.

"This attack was really depressing, we never thought that anyone can attack this peaceful place," Daud Khan, a milk seller in Peshawar told AFP.

Police said they have tightened the security at the centre with a body search for all visitors and installing a walk-through gate scanner.