PESHAWAR - At least five persons were killed and 31 others injured in two back-to-back hand grenade attacks at Picture House cinema in Qissa Khwani Bazaar here on Sunday.

Police sources said that some unknown persons hurled two hand grenades into the cinema hall, near Khan Raziq Police Station, where around 100 people were watching a Pashto movie. SP City Mukhtiar confirmed that five persons were killed and 31 others were injured in the attack.

Heavy contingent of police rushed the blast site and cordoned off the area. All the 31 injured were taken to Lady Reading Hospital, where two of them were stated to be in a critical condition. The bomb disposal squad said two hand grenades were used in the attack. They also collected evidence from the site.

An eyewitness said that the 9PM show of “Ziddi Pashtoon” movie was going on when some unknown persons entered the cinema hall and lobbed the hand grenades one after the other inside the hall. The incident occurred due to poor security as reportedly those entering the cinema were not properly frisked at the gate.

Peshawar Commissioner Zaheerul Islam told the media that cinemas have been under threat since long. The district administration has time and again directed the cinema owners to ensure security and strict frisking at the entry points.

Condemning the attack, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Shah Farman said that they had the information that blasts may occur at busy places of the city.

The information minister also said that the police force had directed cinema owners to ensure proper security but they were showing laxity.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan, ANP President Asfandyar Wali Khan and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali also condemned the attack. The interior minister directed KPK inspector general of police to submit enquiry report of the incident.

AFP adds: The attack on the Picture House took place as some 90 people were watching a late-night show of the film ‘Ziddi Pakhtun’ (Stubborn Pushtun), police said.

“At least five people have been killed and 31 injured. Attackers hurled two grenades and fled the scene,” Faisal Mukhtar, a senior police official, told AFP.

A stampede following the blasts was responsible for many of the injuries, Mukhtar added.

Jamil Shah, a spokesman for Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital, said three dead bodies and 31 injured people had so far been taken to his hospital.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but police said that cinema houses in the city were already under threat.

“We had informed the cinema owner about the possible threats,” Najeeb-ur-Rahman, a senior police officer, told AFP.

Peshawar is a frontline city in Pakistan’s battle against insurgents, who regard films as sinful.

The Taliban closed down cinemas in the scenic Swat Valley in the country’s northwest which they controlled from 2007-2009.

The decline of cinema houses in Peshawar has also been accelerated by the advent of videos, DVDs and the Internet and today only seven remain.

Monitoring Desk adds: The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has disassociated itself from the blasts in which five people were killed and more than 30 others injured at a cinema in Peshawar on Sunday, reported a private TV channel.