PESHAWAR - A suicide bomber killed at least 11 army soldiers and injured 13 at an army camp in Swat Valley on Saturday. An officer was among those who died in the bombing, which was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban in an email to journalists.

The attacker targeted an army unit’s sports area in the Kabal area of the Swat Valley, the military’s media wing said in a statement.

The Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) had initially said that at least three security personnel were martyred in the attack. However, seven critically injured officials and an officer later succumbed to their wounds, the ISPR said. “Seven critical injured soldiers embraced shahadat. Number of total martyred soldiers is 11 including an officer,” it said in a later statement.

The attacker targeted an army unit’s sports area in the Kabal area of the Swat Valley. Initial reports suggested that the bomber blew himself up in a ground where soldiers were playing volleyball.

“The soldiers were playing volleyball in the evening outside the military base...when a suicide bomber managed to blow himself up,” said a security official who asked not to be identified. The match was also being watched by civilians, and the casualty count could rise as a large number of people had gathered in the area, he said, adding that wounded were being shifted to a nearby military hospital.

Security forces and police cordoned off the area and mounted a manhunt for the accomplices and handlers of the bomber. The injured security officials were taken to the Saidu Teaching Hospital in Mingora, Swat.

The attack was claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, in a statement sent to the media.

“God willing Tehreek-e-Taliban has started the process of revenge attacks,” Taliban spokesman Mohammad Khurasani said in the statement. “Wait for more (attacks) to follow.”

Violence in Pakistan has declined in recent years following a series of military offensives along the northwestern border with Afghanistan, but militant groups are still able to carry out bloody attacks.

The Swat Valley was under the de facto control of the Pakistani Taliban in 2007-2009. They imposed their harsh brand of Islamic law, and carried out public floggings and executions until a military operation drove them out.

The area has seen sporadic militant attacks since, including assassinations of local leaders who cooperate with the government.

‘COWARDS NO MATCH TO OUR VALIANT SONS’

Strongly condemning the terrorist act, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi expressed deep grief and offer condolences to the bereaved families.

The premier prayed for the blessing of the departed souls and quick recovery of the injured.

“The coward terrorist enemy is no match for our valiant sons of the soil,” said the premier, adding that no cowardly attack can deter the nation in pursuing its struggle against the menace of terrorism to its logical conclusion. “We will continue our fight till the last trace is rooted out,” he vowed.