CHARSADDA: Three suicide attackers and seven civilians were killed and 22 others injured in a clash between police and bombers who tried to enter the tehsil courts here on Tuesday.
The attack was the latest in a wave of militant assaults across the country that has killed over 100 people since last week.
According to an AP report, the outlawed Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a breakaway faction of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the Charsadda attack.
According to Regional Police Officer (RPO) Ijaz Khan, the three suicide bombers came through the fields and attempted to enter the tehsil courts and secretariat in the Tangi area at about 11.30am. When policemen manning the main gate stopped them, the attackers opened fire and hurled grenades and an encounter ensued between them that continued for about 20 minutes, he said.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claims responsibility for the latest strike
One bomber blew himself up, while two others were shot dead by police, the RPO said, adding that seven civilians were also killed and 22 others injured.
The deceased civilians were identified as Master Rohullah, his son Miftahullah, Neemullah, Ghafar Ali, Mansif Khan, Haider and Hashir.
Ghafar Ali was a cobbler and Mansif and Haider were sitting at his roadside shop outside the courts. Neemullah was selling pakoras at his makeshift outlet. Rohullah was a petition writer and his son Miftahullah was there to help his father. Hashir was a child and had come to see his father Muqadar Shah who was selling tea at his stall on the road in front of the courts.
They were all hit by stray bullets or shrapnel, according to witnesses.
Bomb Disposal Unit officials said that between seven and eight kilograms of explosives were used by each bomber in the attack. Five grenades and three pistols were also found at the spot.
The RPO said the attackers wanted to enter the tehsil courts and secretariat housing important buildings, including offices of the tehsil nazim and civil and additional sessions judges. Four judges and 40 lawyers were present inside the buildings at the time of the attack. He said the judges, lawyers and government officials were apparent target of the attackers.
Soon after the incident, security personnel and police reached the area and helicopter gunships were seen flying over the site.
Rescue 1122, Edhi Foundation, Al-Khidmat Foundation personnel and local people took part in rescue work. The injured were taken to the Tangi tehsil hospital, Charsadda DHQ hospital and hospitals in Peshawar.
Body parts of the suicide bomber were collected from the scene and sent for DNA tests, the RPO said.
District police chief Suhail Khalid claimed that the attackers were Uzbek and came from Afghanistan. He told Dawn that soon after the attack, police and security personnel cordoned off the area and started a search operation.
He said four suspects had been arrested and shifted to an undisclosed location for interrogation, adding that facilitators of the attackers would soon be arrested.
The police officer said security had been tightened at all government installations and it was the result of a threat alert that the attackers were handled before entering the courts’ premises. Had the attackers managed to enter the buildings, there would have been heavy casualties, he added.
He praised the policemen on duty for their bravery and gallantry which averted disaster and heavy casualties. He said the attackers used five hand-grenades and 9mm pistols.
A suicide attack was carried out on the Shabqadar tehsil courts on March 7 last year.
Meanwhile, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bar Council announced a three-day mourning and one-day boycott of courts.
The KP Bar and Charsadda District Bar condemned the attack and demanded security for lawyers and judges as well as people.
Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, Qaumi Watan Party’s provincial president and senior minister Sikandar Sherpao, Jamaat-i-Islami’s provincial chief Mustaq Ahmed Khan and others condemned the attack. They expressed shock and grief over the death of innocent people and condoled with bereaved families.
They asked the government to implement the National Action Plan in letter and spirit.
Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2017