PESHAWAR: A suicide bomber blew himself up in northwest Pakistan Monday, killing at least eight people and injuring 21 in an attack the Taliban said was revenge for the hanging of an Islamist assassin last week.
The bomber attacked as lawyers and litigants were arriving at a court complex during the morning rush hour in the town of Shabqadar.
“A suicide bomber blew up himself inside the court complex. So far eight people have been killed and 21 others are injured,” Fayaz Khan, a senior police official in the area, told AFP.
The Pakistani Taliban’s Jamat-ul-Ahrar faction claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it avenged the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, feted as a hero by Islamists after he gunned down the liberal governor of Punjab in 2011 over a call to reform the country’s blasphemy law.
Qadri was hanged last Monday in what analysts described as a “key moment” in Pakistan’s long fight against militancy, saying it demonstrated the government’s resolve to uphold the rule of law rather than allow extremism to flourish.
His funeral brought up to 100,000 people on to the streets hailing him as a hero.
The Taliban also said Monday’s blast targeted the court complex as Pakistan’s judiciary are strengthening “un-Islamic laws”, Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the group told AFP.
At least one woman was among the dead and two children were among the injured, police sources said.
Local TV channels showed footage of victims being rushed to hospitals soon after the blast.
Sohail Khalid, district police chief in Charsadda district where Shabqadar is located, said two of the dead were on-duty policemen who had tried to stop the bomber.
His account was confirmed by senior regional police official Saeed Wazir, who praised the “brave” effort from officers who “sacrificed their lives”.
Local bar association president Shair Qadir said they had requested security after receiving threats of the attack, but no action was taken, calling it a “police failure”.
Shabqadar is near the Mohmand tribal district, one of seven semi-autonomous regions bordering Afghanistan where militants from Al-Qaeda and the Taliban had established bases in the past.
Islamabad launched a military offensive in the tribal areas in 2014 that has reportedly killed thousands of militants and pushed the rest over the border to Afghanistan, resulting in improved security inside Pakistan.
However, insurgents associated with Pakistan’s homegrown Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan occasionally carry out attacks from bases in Afghanistan.
Shabqadar is some 30 kilometres (18 miles) west of Charsadda, where extremists attacked a university on January 20 in a rampage that left 21 dead.