Islamic militancy

Suicide bombers attack Pakistani court, killing seven, as wave of violence continues

One bomber was briefly on the loose inside the busy complex in the Tangi area of Charsadda district but was killed by police some 20 minutes after the attack began

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2017, 3:50pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2017, 10:48pm

At least seven people were killed when multiple Taliban suicide bombers attacked a court complex in northern Pakistan on Tuesday, the latest in a series of assaults which have raised fears militants are regrouping.

One bomber was briefly on the loose inside the busy complex in the Tangi area of Charsadda district but was killed by police some 20 minutes after the attack began, officials said.

A second bomber was shot dead by security forces and a third died when he detonated his vest outside the main gates of the facility in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, according to police.

Police fought bravely and saved Charsadda from devastation
Suhail Khalid, district police chief

The attack was claimed by the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) faction of the Pakistani Taliban, which carried out a series of apparently coordinated assaults last week including a powerful bomb blast in Lahore which killed 14 people.

Earlier this month the group vowed a fresh offensive on targets in Pakistan including the judiciary.

“So far seven people have been killed and 15 wounded,” Suhail Khalid, district police chief, told AFP, adding that a lawyer was among the dead. The three attackers had opened fire on police and thrown grenades as they tried to battle their way into the complex, Khalid said.

“Bomb disposal experts told us that each bomber was wearing 7kg-8kg of explosives,” he told reporters in Charsadda. “Police fought bravely and saved Charsadda from devastation.”

It was not immediately clear how many people were inside at the time of the attack, but hundreds of people including lawyers, judges and citizens normally attend such district court complexes every day.

Lawyers and the judiciary are frequent targets in Pakistan. Among last week’s assaults was a bomb blast targeting a van carrying judges in Peshawar, which killed their driver.

Last August JuA along with the Islamic State (IS) group claimed a suicide bombing in Quetta that killed 73 people, including many of the southwestern city’s legal community.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s office condemned the latest assault and the loss of life.

“We are a steadfast nation and will not be deterred by such attacks. Our government will continue to fight against terrorist elements and we will succeed,” a statement said.

Police and troops had been on high alert in Pakistan after last week’s wave of attacks, which killed more than 100 people. Most, including the Lahore bomb, were claimed by JuA, a faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, or Pakistani Taliban) group.

But the Islamic State group claimed the deadliest of last week’s assaults, a suicide bomb at a Sufi shrine in Sindh province on Thursday which killed 90 people and wounded hundreds.

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The emergence of IS and a TTP resurgence would be a major blow to Pakistan, which had enjoyed a dramatic improvement in security over the past two years after a military-led crackdown begun in 2014. Analysts said there were “visible signs” militants were regrouping after last week’s attacks.

Islamabad launched a violent crackdown in their wake, saying it killed dozens of “terrorists” and carried out strikes on militant hideouts along the border with Afghanistan. Hundreds of families have been displaced by the firing on both sides of the border, according to officials.

Kabul and Islamabad routinely accuse each other of providing safe haven to militants. The Pakistani government admitted it shelters the Afghan Taliban leadership in statements by the country’s top diplomat last year.