A suicide attack targeting a court complex in northwest Pakistan killed 12 people and injured more than 50 on Friday, hours after security forces foiled an attack on a Christian neighbourhood near Peshawar by killing four attackers.
The Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a breakaway faction of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, claimed responsibility for both attacks. The group has also targeted Christians in the past.
The group’s spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, promised more attacks. “We appeal to civilians to remain away from law enforcement installations and these un-Islamic courts. We will target them more,” he told Reuters.
The suicide bomber blew himself up at the crowded Mardan district court complex in the restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province after detonating a grenade. “First there was a small blast followed by a big blast,” Haris Habib, the chief rescue officer in Mardan, said.
“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 told the media.
Earlier in the day, four gunmen wearing suicide vests attacked a Christian colony near Warsak dam, north of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa capital Peshawar, killing a security guard and a civilian, military officials said.
The attackers exchanged fire with security forces and were killed, the military said, adding the situation was under control. “A house to house search is in progress,” it said.
Two solders, a policeman and two civilian security guards were injured in the battle, the military said.
The Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which briefly declared allegiance to the Islamic State in 2014 but recently said it was no longer affiliated with the group, also carried out the Easter Day attack on Christians in a park in Lahore that killed 72 people, including 29 children.
More than 20 people were killed in an attack in December on a government office in Mardan, which too was claimed by Jamaat-ur-Ahrar.
Friday’s assault on the court complex in Mardan was the second attack on Pakistan’s legal community in the past few weeks. Last month, a blast in Quetta, the capital of southern Balochistan province, killed more than 70, nearly wiping out the city’s senior lawyers. Both Jamaat-ur-Ahrar and Islamic State had claimed the attack in Quetta.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the attacks would “not shatter our unflinching resolve in our war against terrorism”. He said in a statement: “These receding elements are showing frustration by attacking our soft targets. They shall not get space to hide in Pakistan.”