A suicide bomber struck a military facility in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least 31 soldiers and wounding more than 40 others.
Pakistani authorities say the soldiers were busy in their early training session in Mardan, when a teenage bomber dressed in a school uniform walked up to them and detonated the explosives.
The powerful blast is said to have instantly caused most of the deaths. Doctors fear the toll could rise because some of those wounded are in critical condition.
Witnesses say several schools are also located near the military base, called Punjab Regiment Center.
District Police Chief Zeeshan Haider says investigation is underway to determine what led to the attack in the heavily guarded zone.
"This area is very well guarded and, when the students come within the Punjab Regiment Center to go to the schools, they are checked and their vehicles are checked," he said. "The military authorities are also coordinating with us and we are looking for the lapses."
Thursday’s attack is being described as one of the worst against Pakistani security forces in recent months and shows that, despite major military operations against their hideouts, Taliban and al-Qaida linked militants are still capable of hitting key installations.
A suicide attack on the same military training facility in 2006 killed 35 soldiers.
Militants of have carried out scores of suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks in recent years in Pakistan, killing thousands of people. The victims included a large number of security forces
Pakistani officials believe the violence is meant to discourage army’s successful anti-militancy campaign aimed at eliminating Taliban sanctuaries in the tribal region near the Afghan border.