Two suicide bombers stormed the Judicial Complex in Peshawar on Monday, killing four people and wounding another 47, including two women.
The attack coincided with the release of an audio message by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in which the group ‘suspended’ its peace dialogue offer to the government.
The suicide bombers – armed with assault rifles and hand grenades – opened indiscriminate fire as they made their way through the multi-layered security at the complex. “The attackers entered the building from the back gate,” Faisal Kamran, the superintendent of police Cantt, told The Express Tribune.
They fired on police guards, lawyers and litigants as they stormed past three security gates to reach the main building. The policemen engaged the attackers and shot one of them dead before he could detonate his vest, added SP Kamran.
Bomb Disposal Squad officials defused the vest which, according to them, was rigged with eight kilogrammes of explosives and ball bearings.
Additional Inspector General of Police Masood Afridi told reporters that the police intercepted the second bomber as he tried to make his way into the court of Additional Sessions Judge Kalsoom Azam. The bomber detonated his vest after throwing a hand grenade as he tried to enter the courtroom.
Three policemen sustained gunshot wounds and were later shifted to hospital. Judge Kalsoom, who was in an adjoining room at the time of the attack, remained unhurt.
Witness Zafar Khan said, “The two attackers opened fire on the policeman deployed at the gate [of the Judicial Complex] and ran towards the main building.” He added that an intense gunfight ensued following which a loud explosion went off.
“I don’t know whether I was hit by a bullet or shrapnel but I fell on the ground as the policemen and the attackers exchanged heavy fire,” added another witness, Aman Khan, who was also wounded in the attack.
After the explosion, army commandoes cordoned off the complex and mounted a search operation.
Assistant Commissioner Habibullah Arif identified three of the dead as Abdul Majeed, Syed Jalal and Muhammad Ishfaque, a clerk at the Judicial Complex. The fourth deceased has yet to be identified.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain condemned the attack and said that “terrorists struck at a time when the general elections are just round the corner”. It could be an attempt to disturb the peaceful atmosphere but the elections should not be postponed, he added.
The minister was right. Later in the day the TTP spokesperson called upon Pakistanis in an audio message to stay away from political gatherings of secular parties.
In the audio message sent to media outlets and journalists, Ehsanullah Ehsan also announced that the TTP has ‘suspended’ its peace dialogue offer because of the ‘non-serious attitude of the stakeholders’.
He accused politicians and military officers of undermining the country for petty personal interests. He alleged that the military was doing America’s bidding and did not want an end to the war in tribal regions.
“Their non-serous attitude is enough to show who is pushing the country towards war and bloodshed. Who is responsible for the unrest? The military and politicians also have differences between them,” he said.
Ehsan also criticised the PPP-led coalition government’s five-year performance, blaming it for rampant unemployment, power crisis, injustices, enforced disappearances, drone strikes, ‘genocide of the tribal people’ and violence in Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar.
“The TTP urges the people to stay away from every activity that is being held under this secular democratic system, especially the political gatherings and rallies of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Awami National Party and Pakistan Peoples Party,” he said referring to the upcoming electioneering.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 19th, 2013.