September 2, 2016
ISLAMABAD — Authorities in northwestern Pakistan say a suicide bombing attack on a court complex has killed at least 12 people and wounded about 50 others.
The violence happened Friday in the city of Mardan in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
District mayor Himatyat Ullah told reporters an armed attacker threw a hand grenade at security guards at the gate before detonating the explosives strapped to his body.
Authorities and hospital sources say a number of lawyers are among the victims and the death toll is likely to increase.
The bombing occurred hours after Pakistani troops killed four suicide bombers before they could detonate their devices in a Christian neighborhood in the provincial capital of Peshawar. The attack prompted authorities to step up security around churches in the province and elsewhere in Pakistan.
A military statement said the firefight with the attackers wounded two soldiers, a police guard and two civilians.
A spokesman for the breakaway faction of the extremist Pakistani Taliban namely Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA) told VOA it was behind the two attacks, though it was not immediately possible to independently verify the claim.
A suicide attack outside a hospital in southwestern city of Quetta last month killed more than 75 people, mostly lawyers. JuA had also claimed responsibility for that bombing. The United States recently designated the group as a global terrorist organization.
Pakistani officials allege JuA operates out of Afghanistan’s border areas and is being supported by the neighboring country’s intelligence agency, charges Kabul rejects.
Friday’s violence happened a day after the Pakistan military announced it has cleared northwestern semiautonomous tribal districts of militant networks and “forestalled” Islamic State’s attempts to establish a footprint in the country. The tribal areas are located on the Afghan border and have traditionally been condemned as a hub of local and international militant outfits.
Army spokesman Lt. General Asim Bajwa said Thursday security forces have arrested more than 300 IS-linked militants, including Syrians and Afghans. He said they were plotting attacks on government, diplomatic and other civilian facilities, including media houses.
“They tried to make an ingress, and they failed and they have been apprehended so far,” Bajwa told reporters.
The general said that since the military launched a counterterrorism offensive against the Pakistani Taliban and its allied groups near the Afghan border two years ago, more than 3,500 militants around 540 soldiers have been killed. Additionally, Bajwa noted the war has also cost Pakistan an estimated $107 billion.
He released the details in response to U.S. and Afghan criticism that Pakistan has been fighting anti-state militants but sparing the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban allegedly using Pakistani soil for deadly attacks in Afghanistan.
“Terrorists of all organizations, including Haqqanis, including Afghan Taliban, have been killed and some apprehended … so if you say that you know actions have not been taken or (are) not being taken, that is wrong,” he said.
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