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Blast kills seven during prayers at Pakistani Islamic center

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - At least seven people including an eight-year-old child were killed in Pakistan on Thursday when an explosion ripped through a packed Islamic preaching centre during evening prayers.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Peshawar, a volatile city on the Pakistani border with Afghanistan. Around 70 people were wounded, officials said.

Shafqat Malik, a senior police official and head of a local bomb disposal squad, said a timed device had exploded at the centre, known as Tableeghi Markaz.

"Five kilograms of explosives were dumped in a can ... It went off when the building was jam-packed with worshippers in the evening," he said.

Iqbal Afridi, a doctor at Peshawar's Lady Reading Hospital, said some of the wounded were in a critical condition and the death toll might still rise. Jamil Shah, a hospital spokesman, said an eight-year-old child had been killed.

"Around 4,000 people were inside the Markaz when the blast took place," Ashraf Khan Mohmand, a witness, told Reuters. "There was then smoke and darkness, and we could not see anything. We could hear only the crying of the injured."

The worshippers were offering the second part of "maghreb", or evening prayer, when the device exploded, he added.

The Pakistani Taliban, whose new leader Mullah Fazlullah called for an end to attacks on civilians at the end of last year, sought to distance itself from the attack. Fazlullah has vowed to attack only government and security officials.

"The TTP (Pakistani Taliban) strongly deny such inhuman activities," Shahidullah Shahid, a Taliban spokesman, told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

(Reporting by Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar and Saud Mehsud in Dera Ismail Khan, Writing by Maria Golovnina in Islamabad; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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