At least 13 people were killed and 54 others injured today when a Taliban bomber blew himself up at Mardan district courts in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, hours after security forces foiled an assault on Peshawar’s Christian colony by killing four suicide attackers.
The attacker from the Tehreek-e-Taliban’s Jamaat-ur-Ahrar faction apparently wanted to hit lawyers at the bar room, police said.
When a policeman stopped him at the gate, the bomber threw a grenade at him and detonated his explosives laden vest among the morning crowds at the main gate of the courts.
“First there was a small blast followed by a big blast,” chief rescue officer in Mardan Haris Habib said.
Six lawyers and two policemen were among the dead.
“So far we have recovered 12 bodies of lawyers, police personnel and civilians. Besides this, we rescued 52 injured, including lawyers, police personnel and civilians from the spot,” Habib was quoted as saying by the Express Tribune.
The injured have been shifted to a nearby hospital. A state of emergency has been declared at local hospitals and security has been tightened in all adjoining areas.
Police officials said that the suicide bomber had between seven and eight kilogrammes of explosives on his body.
Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif visited the Mardan Medical Complex and inquired after the injured victims of the blast.
This was second attack on Pakistan’s legal community within a month. In August, a blast at a hospital in southern Balochistan province capital Quetta killed more than 70 people, nearly wiping out the senior lawyers of the city.
The Quetta attack was also claimed by Jamaat-ur Ahrar.
Today’s assault on court occurred hours after four heavily-armed suicide attackers from the same faction tried to storm a Christian colony in Peshawar, some 40 kilometers from Mardan, but were gunned down by security forces.
In the predawn attack, the terrorists struck the colony near Warsak Dam, just north of Peshawar, and killed one Christian security guard.
Soldiers backed by army helicopters rushed to spot where they exchanged gunfire with terrorists. All four terrorists were killed during the encounter.
Five persons including two Frontier Corps personnel, one policeman and two civilian guards were injured in the attack.
Director General Inter-Services Public Relations Lt-Gen Asim Bajwa tweeted that the attack was quickly repulsed.
“Terrorist attacked Christian Colony Warsak Road, Peshawar. Security forces promptly responded. All 4 suicide bombers killed. Search in progress,” Bajwa tweeted.
Two of the attackers detonated their suicide jackets while two others were killed by security forces.
An official said the attackers might have been attempting to enter an adjacent security installation. The Christian colony is situated outside the military cantonment.
The Jamaat-ur Ahrar claimed responsibility for both the attacks in the restive province.
“We have carried out the attack,” the group’s spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan said.
The attack was a response to the Army’s spokesperson press conference who said yesterday that militant groups had been eliminated, he added.
Army spokesman Bajwa yesterday said that Pakistan had destroyed organised presence of militants on its soil.
The army had launched operation ‘Zarb-e-Azb’ in June 2014 in a bid to flush out militants from the country’s restive tribal areas and bring an end to the militancy that has killed thousands of civilian since 2004.
Bajwa had said that 3,500 terrorists had been eliminated during the course of operation.
Taliban has repeatedly targeted minorities and security installations in the country.
A Taliban suicide bomber had targeted Christians in Lahore at Easter this year, killing more than 70 people, including children.
Taliban militants stormed an army-run school in Peshawar in December 2014, killing more than 150 people, mostly children, in Pakistan’s one of the worst terror attacks.