At least a dozen people have been killed and over 50 others wounded after two bombs went off outside a district court in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, local media say.
“First there was a small blast followed by a big blast” on Friday morning in the city of Mardan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said Haris Habib, a local rescue officer.
There were lawyers, police officers and civilians among the victims, the official added.
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. “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.”
Shortly afterwards, the Taliban-linked Jamaat-ul-Ahrar militant group in Pakistan claimed responsibility for both the court bombing and an earlier attack on a Christian majority area in the Khyber tribal region.
Earlier in the day, a security official and a civilian lost their lives when four armed men wearing explosive vests attacked the neighborhood near Warsak Dam, 20 kilometers (12 miles) northwest of Peshawar City.
The Pakistani military said a gun battle erupted between its forces and the attackers, adding that the situation was under control and all the assailants were killed.
“A house to house search is in progress,” the military said, adding that five people also sustained injuries in the attack.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban, was also behind another terror attack which left 20 people dead in Mardan last December.
Reacting to the attacks, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in a statement that such acts of violence would “not shatter our unflinching resolve in our war against terrorism.”
“These receding elements are showing frustration by attacking our soft targets. They shall not get space to hide in Pakistan,” the statement added.
Last month, a bomb attack near the Civil Hospital in Quetta city of Balochistan Province left at least 70 people, mostly lawyers, dead and over 110 others wounded.
The Quetta massacre was claimed by both Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and the Daesh Takfiri terror group.
Peshawar also suffered its worst terror attack in December 2014 when pro-Taliban gunmen massacred more than 150 people, most of them children, at an army-run school.
The latest wave of violence comes a day after Lieutenant General Asim Saleem Bajwa, a senior military official, said some 3,500 terrorists had been eliminated since Islamabad launched an anti-militancy operation in 2014.
He added that over 2,700 soldiers have also lost their lives in the course of the offensive against militants.