At least 18 people were killed and more than 52 wounded after a suicide bomber attacked a court in the Pakistani city of Mardan on Friday, police said, the latest assault targeting Pakistan’s legal community.
The bomber shot his way through the main gate leading to the district court, before throwing a hand grenade and detonating his suicide vest among the morning crowds, senior police official Ejaz Khan said.
Rescuers were picking 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.
Mardan Rescue spokesman Bilal Ahmad Faizi said 18 people had been killed and 54 injured in the blast.
Police official Faisal Shehzad, said the dead included police and lawyers. Officials said the bomber had up to eight kilogrammes of explosives packed into his vest.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes three weeks after a massive suicide blast killed scores of lawyers in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, in Balochistan.
Friday’s blast came as security forces fended off four suicide bombers who were trying to attack a Christian colony in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial capital of Peshawar, 60 kilometres (37 miles) to the west of Mardan.
Soldiers backed by army helicopters exchanged gunfire with terrorists in suicide vests who had tried to attack the colony near Warsak Dam, just north of Peshawar, the army said.
All four attackers were killed along with a guard at the entrance to the colony, the statement said, adding that the situation is “under control”.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attempt.