Pakistani Militants Kill 4 in Attack on Court Complex

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan  --  Militants stormed a court complex in northwestern Pakistan on Monday, killing 4 people and wounding at least 30 people, including a judge, in the latest assault on government authority in the region.

The attack at the court complex in Peshawar, the regional capital, triggered a fierce gun battle with the security forces during which the militants briefly held hostages, according to the provincial information minister, Mian Iftikhar Hussain.

The militants may have been seeking to free fellow extremists who were being held on the court complex, Mr. Hussain said.

The police shot dead one suicide bomber at the court gates before he could detonate his vest, said Jawed Marwat, a senior city official.

But a second bomber managed to enter a courtroom and set off his explosives, killing at least two court officials. The female presiding judge, Kulsoom Afridi, was in her chambers at the time of the attack, but also sustained serious injuries.

Television footage showed terrified people fleeing the court complex during the attack. Judges, court officials and members of the public took refuge in the court basement, locking the doors from the inside, said one court official.

Afterward, police investigators collected body parts and forensic evidence from the destroyed courtroom.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack. Peshawar has suffered numerous attacks by militants in recent years, both from the Pakistani Taliban and associated extremist groups who hold sway in the nearby tribal belt.

Some security officials disagreed with the theory that the attackers were seeking to free prisoners. "There was no court hearing of any terror suspect, so it is difficult to imagine the terrorists would have come to target either a judge or to rescue their colleagues," said one investigator, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The attack came two days after Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf dissolved Parliament to make way for elections due to take by place by mid-May. The Pakistani Taliban has vowed to disrupt the poll by targeting secular and liberal parties.

 In December, a Taliban suicide bomber killed Bashir Ahmed Bilour, a senior politician with the Awami National Party, a Pashtun nationalist party that controls Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. Hundreds of party activists and supporters have been killed in Taliban attacks since it assumed power in 2008.  

Ismail Khan contributed reporting from Peshawar, Pakistan.

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This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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