PESHAWAR/ ISLAMABAD: At least 16 people, including three police personnel were killed in a suicide attack in Shabqadar Bazaar of Charsadda district in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on Monday.
A suicide bomber was attempting to enter a district court as a security personnel, identified as Shabbir, intercepted him outside the court's premises, which prompted him to blow himself up, Charsadda DPO Sohail Khalid told The Express Tribune.
A spokesperson for the Lady Reading Hospital confirmed 16 people were killed and 25 others injured.
Official death tallies showed there were at least six women among the dead.
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Saeed Wazir, another police official confirmed it was a suicide attack.
Witnesses described a huge explosion at the scene.
"We were sitting with a lawyer when a huge explosion took place in the sessions court," said Gohar Khan, a local police official who was at the scene.
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Security officials and rescue teams were dispatched to the scene while a search operation was underway in the area.
Television footage showed widespread damage and the charred remains of at least two vehicles at the scene.
Shabqadar, located about 150 kilometres northwest of Islamabad, is adjacent to the Mohmand tribal area, which has seen several attacks in recent days.
Meanwhile, the COAS while expressing condolences to the bereaved families of the blast paid rich tributes to the sacrifice and bravery of police Havaldar Naseem who laid his life in the line of duty, said the ISPR.
IED blast in Mohmand Agency kills two US mission employees
On March 1, a remote-controlled roadside bomb targeted a convoy of vehicles travelling in Mohmand, killing two Pakistani employees of the United States Consulate in nearby Peshawar.
About two weeks earlier, on Feb 18, Taliban gunmen killed nine paramilitary personnel in two separate attacks on check posts in Mohmand. Both earlier attacks were claimed by the Jamaat-ur-Ahrar faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a proscribed militant group.
TTP claims responsibility
Hours after the attack, TTP splinter group Jammatul Ahrar claimed responsibility, saying it is revenge for Mumtaz Qadri's execution.
“We are responsible for the attack on the district court in Shabqadar," said spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan in a statement.
“We have not killed civilians. The court and judges were our target as their practices are un-Islamic.”
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The TTP, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, has been waging an insurgency against the state since 2007, in a bid to impose a strict interpretation of Islamic law.
A series of military operations in tribal areas — the latest of which was Zarb-e-Azb launched in 2014 — have reduced the TTP's ability to hit major targets regularly, but attacks on security and civilian targets do continue to occur.
PM offers condolences to bereaved families
Meanwhile, sympathising deeply with the bereaved families, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the terrorist attack.
“The premier has extended his heartfelt condolences to the victims' families and prayed to Allah Almighty for grant of courage to them for bearing the irreparable losses,” a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s office said on Monday.
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The prime minister said sacrifices by the country’s law enforcement agencies in the fight against terrorism will not go in vain.
“The nation is united in its commitment to wipe out this menace from our soil,” he added.