The blast occurred at the Speen Jamaat mosque, which also serves as a religious school for the local community in the city’s Dir Colony area, at 8:30am local time (3:30 GMT) on Tuesday, a police official told Al Jazeera shortly after the blast.
“[Students] were reading the Quran here, that is when the explosion occurred,” Peshawar police chief Muhammad Ali Khan told reporters near the scene.
“The initial investigation shows […] that five to six kilograms of explosive material was used [and] that someone came here and left a bag of explosives.”
It was not immediately clear how many children were among those killed or wounded, as the students gathered at the school included many who were adults.
Speaking to local television station Geo News, the provincial police’s bomb disposal unit chief Shafqat Malik said the device was sophisticated in design and involved a timed detonation.
“The forensic evidence that we have picked up, shows that it was about 5kg [11 pounds] of explosives and it was a timed device,” said Malik.
“It seems to be a high-quality device, which appears to use TNT. There has been a lot of damage, and this [attack] has been planned with great thought.”
Television footage from the scene of the blast showed significant damage to the interior of the mosque’s main prayer hall, with pockmarks dotting the ceiling and debris strewn across the floor.
Provincial health minister Taimur Khan Jhagra said the wounded were being treated at the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH), the city’s main government hospital.
“There have been 72 [wounded] patients brought to LRH, and there have been seven unfortunate deaths,” Jhagra told reporters at the hospital.
“Our sole focus right now is for the injured patients to be given the best possible care and so that they have the best chance to recover.”
There was no immediate claim of responsibility following the attack.
Pakistan has battled the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Pakistani Taliban, since 2007, when the group was formed and held sway over several districts, carrying out frequent attacks against civilian and security targets across the country.
Violence has sharply declined since 2014, when the Pakistani military launched a series of operations to displace the TTP from its erstwhile headquarters in the country’s northwest, forcing many fighters and commanders to allegedly move into neighbouring Afghanistan.
Since 2017, the frequency of bomb explosions such as Tuesday’s attack has lessened, but sporadic attacks aimed at civilians and security forces continue to occur.
On Sunday, at least three people were killed after explosives planted in a motorcycle in the southwestern city of Quetta exploded in a market.
That attack was claimed by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), an ethnic Baloch separatist armed group that operates in Balochistan province and is demanding independence for that region.