At least seven people were killed when multiple Taliban suicide bombers attacked a court complex in northern Pakistan Tuesday, the latest in a series of assaults which have raised fears militants are regrouping.
One bomber was briefly on the loose inside the busy complex in the Tangi area of Charsadda district but was killed by police some 20 minutes after the attack began, officials said.
A second bomber was shot dead by security forces and a third died when he detonated his vest outside the main gates of the facility in province, according to police. The attack was claimed by the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) faction of the Taliban, which carried out a series of apparently coordinated assaults last week including a powerful bomb blast in Lahore which killed at least 15 people.
Earlier this month the group vowed a fresh offensive on targets in Pakistan including the judiciary.
"So far seven people have been killed and 21 wounded," Suhail Khalid, district police chief, told AFP, adding that a lawyer was among the dead. The three attackers had opened fire on police and thrown grenades as they tried to battle their way into the complex, Khalid said.
"Bomb disposal experts told us that each bomber was wearing seven to eight kilogrammes of explosives," he told reporters in Charsadda. "Police fought bravely and saved Charsadda from devastation."
It was not immediately clear how many people were inside at the time of the attack, but hundreds of people including lawyers, judges and citizens normally attend such district court complexes every day.
Lawyers and the judiciary are frequent targets in Pakistan. Among last week's assaults was a bomb blast targeting a van carrying judges in Peshawar, which killed their driver.
Last August JuA along with the Islamic State group claimed a suicide bombing in Quetta that killed 73 people, including many of Quetta’s legal community.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's office condemned the latest assault and the loss of life.
"We are a steadfast nation and will not be deterred by such attacks. Our government will continue to fight against terrorist elements and we will succeed," a statement said.