MARDAN - At least 14 people were killed and 58 wounded Friday after a suicide bomber attacked district court in Khyber Pakhtukhwa’s Mardan city.
Three lawyers, three policemen and an Awami National Party (ANP) leader were among the dead in the latest assault targeting the legal community, police, local sources and eyewitness said.
The bomber lobbed a hand grenade on the cops performing security on the main gate and shot his way to the district court premises, where he detonating his suicide vest among the morning crowds, senior police official Ejaz Khan told reporters.
Provincial police chief Nasir Khan Durrani said the death toll had reached 14, with at least 58 people wounded, three of whom were critical. Officials said the bomber had up to eight kilogrammes of explosives packed into his vest.
TTP breakaway faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes three weeks after a massive suicide blast killed scores of lawyers in Quetta.
“First there was a small blast and then came a bigger one”, an eye witness said. Rescuers picked their way through scattered human remains and blood-stained office equipment and files to collect survivors, witnesses said.
Amir Hussain, president of the Mardan Bar Association, said he was in a room nearby when the bomb detonated. "There was dust everywhere, and people were crying loud with pain," he said.
His suit drenched in blood, he added: "I started picking up the wounded and putting them in cars to take them to hospital. I did not know if the people I was rescuing were dead or alive."
Lawyers were being targeted because they are "an important part of democracy, and these terrorists are opposed to democracy," he said. "Our morale is not dented. It is still high," he added.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned attacks (in Mardan and Peshawar), adding that militants were on the back foot and were "showing (their) frustration by attacking soft targets". "They shall not get space to hide in Pakistan," he added.
Army Chief General Raheel Sharif and KP Chief Minister Parveez Khattak visited Mardan Medical Complex and inquired about the health of injured people.
Three dead bodies and 36 injured were shifted to district headquarter (DHQ) hospital. Four bodies and 15 injured were taken to Mardan Medical Complex (MMC).
Sources said that Awami National Party (ANP) leader Arshid Khan who was injured in the blast was referred to Leady Reading Hospital Peshawar in critical condition where he succumbed to his wounds.
The three deceased lawyers were identified as Saed Akbar Khan, Yousaf Ali Shah and Ilyas Sani while the cops who died in line of duty were Azam, Ishtiyaq and Juniad. Six civilians identified as Badar Munier, Ayaz, Ismail, Inayatullah, Fasihullah and Abdullah were also among the dead.
The names of injured who had been identified are: Ajmal Abassi advocate, Imran advocate, Imran, Umar, Abid Ali, Muhammad Nawaz, Idress, Khushdil, Inayat-ur-Rehman, Kamal, Zubier, Abid Khan, Rohul Amin, Khurshid, Ayaz, Azam, Zafar, Riaz, Shakir, Ashrif, Asad Zia, Ijaz, Bilal Shah, Naeem, Adil, Anwarullah, Lal Bahadur, Tahir, Abdur Rehman, Abdus Sattar, Shah Nawaz, Abdur Rauf and Azmat.
Eyewitness told that soon after the incident police and security forces official reached the spot and asked the people present at the court premises to lie down on the ground because they believed there were two other suicide attackers there. The police also opened fire, eyewitnesses said.
But talking to the media DPO Faisal Shahzad said a suicide bomber, who was stopped by police at the main gate, threw a hand grenade at them and started running to enter the court premises.
He said the running bomber was shot at by police as a result his explosive belt exploded. The DPO dismissed any firing inside the court by police latter. He insisted that shots were fired by police only initially at the bomber.
Past attacks in Mardan
Mardan, the second biggest city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has suffered terrorist’s attacks in the past too. In December 2015, a Nadra office at the Dwasaro Chowk in the limits of City Police Station was targeted by a suicide bomber, killing 25 people and wounding 54 others.
Three attacks came in the limits of the same police station this year. In April this year a suicide bombing at the office of the Excise and Taxation Department, few meter from the local courts on The Mall (road), injured 16 people.
In May, a suicide bomber targeted a police patrolling vehicle in same area at the Kutchehri Chowk in front of the local courts. As many as 15 people, including four police constables were wounded in the attack.
In June, two traffic police wardens were injured in a remote-controlled bomb blast at the Akbar Phatak (railway crossing), also in City Police precincts. The attack came at the site which is just a few meters from the house of former CM Ameer Haider Hoti, who belongs to ANP and has been targeted in the past as well.
In July at least 11 people, including two traffic policemen, were injured in an explosion triggered by a remote-controlled device at Shaheedano Bazaar in the city.