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Suspected Taliban Suicide Bomber Hits Court Complex in Pakistan, killing at least 12 people and wounding about 50

District mayor Himatyat Ullah told reporters an armed attacker threw a hand grenade at security guards at the gate before detonating the explosives strapped to his body

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Representational Image of Bomber attack. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Authorities in northwestern Pakistan say a suicide bombing attack on a court complex has killed at least 12 people and wounded about 50 others.

The violence happened Friday in the city of Mardan in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

District mayor Himatyat Ullah told reporters an armed attacker threw a hand grenade at security guards at the gate before detonating the explosives strapped to his body.

Authorities and hospital sources say a number of lawyers are among the victims and the death toll is likely to increase.

The bombing occurred hours after Pakistani troops killed four suicide bombers before they could detonate their devices in a Christian neighborhood in the provincial capital of Peshawar. The attack prompted authorities to step up security around churches in the province and elsewhere in Pakistan.

A military statement said the firefight with the attackers wounded two soldiers, a police guard and two civilians.

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A spokesman for the breakaway faction of the extremist Pakistani Taliban namely Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA) told VOA it was behind the two attacks, though it was not immediately possible to independently verify the claim.

A suicide attack outside a hospital in southwestern city of Quetta last month killed more than 75 people, mostly lawyers. JuA had also claimed responsibility for that bombing. The United States recently designated the group as a global terrorist organization.

Pakistani officials allege JuA operates out of Afghanistan’s border areas and is being supported by the neighboring country’s intelligence agency, charges Kabul rejects.

Friday’s violence happened a day after the Pakistan military announced it has cleared northwestern semi-autonomous tribal districts of militant networks and “forestalled” Islamic State’s attempts to establish a footprint in the country. The tribal areas are located on the Afghan border and have traditionally been condemned as a hub of local and international militant outfits.

Army spokesman Lt. General Asim Bajwa said Thursday security forces have arrested more than 300 IS-linked militants, including Syrians and Afghans. He said they were plotting attacks on government, diplomatic and other civilian facilities, including media houses.

“They tried to make an ingress, and they failed and they have been apprehended so far,” Bajwa told reporters.

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The general said that since the military launched a counterterrorism offensive against the Pakistani Taliban and its allied groups near the Afghan border two years ago, more than 3,500 militants around 540 soldiers have been killed. Additionally, Bajwa noted the war has also cost Pakistan an estimated $107 billion.

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He released the details in response to U.S. and Afghan criticism that Pakistan has been fighting anti-state militants but sparing the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban allegedly using Pakistani soil for deadly attacks in Afghanistan.

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“Terrorists of all organizations, including Haqqanis, including Afghan Taliban, have been killed and some apprehended … so if you say that you know actions have not been taken or (are) not being taken, that is wrong,” he said.

Next Story

ISIS Announces New India and Pakistan Provinces

The "Islamic State Pakistan Province," in communiques issued via its global propaganda mouthpiece Amaq News Agency, took credit for killing a Pakistani police officer

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ISIS, New India, Pakistan, Provinces
FILE- An Islamic State flag is captured in this photo illustration. VOA

The Islamic State group says it has established a “province” in Pakistan, days after the terrorist organization used the name “Hind Province” for an attack it claimed in the India-ruled portion of the disputed Kashmir region.

Both of the divisions formerly fell under the “Khorasan Province” or ISKP — the name the Middle East-based terrorist group uses for its regional operations launched in early 2015 from bases in the border region of Afghanistan — according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist threats.

The “Islamic State Pakistan Province,” in communiques issued via its global propaganda mouthpiece Amaq News Agency, took credit for killing a Pakistani police officer this week in Mastung, and it reported shooting at a gathering of militants linked to the outlawed Pakistani Taliban militant group in Quetta.

Both the districts are located in violence-hit Baluchistan province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran. Several separatist Baluch groups and sectarian organizations also are active in the province.

ISIS, New India, Pakistan, Provinces
FILE – Rescue workers and army soldiers gather at the site of a blast at a vegetable market in Quetta, Pakistan, April 12, 2019. VOA

There was no immediate reaction available from the Pakistani government.

Islamabad maintains there is no “organized” presence of IS in the country. Pakistani military officials say an ongoing nationwide military-led “intelligence-based operation” is primarily aimed at denying space in Pakistan to extremists linked to any terrorist groups.

The group released no details about the boundaries of the territory it is now claiming. In previous Islamic State propaganda, all of Afghanistan and most of Pakistan, parts of modern Iran and Central Asia make up the so-called Khorasan Province. IS also has spoken about creating its own chapter for the Indian subcontinent.

Marketplace expolsion

IS also took responsibility for last month’s suicide blast in a marketplace in Quetta city that killed 20 people and left nearly 50 injured. The targets of the attack were members of the ethnic Hazara Shiite Muslim community.

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On Friday, IS declared in a statement via Amaq the creation of “Hind Province,” while taking responsibility for clashes with Indian forces in Amshipora in the Shopian district of Kashmir.

IS has increased attacks lately in the region, including taking credit for the group’s Easter Sunday first-ever bombings in Sri Lanka that killed more than 250 people.

Observers say altering its provincial structure and fragmenting the “Khorasan Province” by IS could be aimed at bolstering its credentials after losing its “caliphate” in Syria and Iran, where the terrorists at one point used to control thousands of miles of territory.

“As ISIS [one of several acronyms used for IS] seeks to build and restructure foundations of insurgencies across the globe after its losses in Iraq and Syria, it is attempting to recruit also from Pakistan, a country with an existing jihadi militant population,” tweeted Rita Katz, the director of the SITE Intelligence Group.

ISIS, New India, Pakistan, Provinces
the terrorist organization used the name “Hind Province” for an attack it claimed in the India-ruled portion of the disputed Kashmir region. Wikimedia Commons

The suspected rebranding of ISKP comes as the United Nations earlier this week designated the “Khorasan Province” as a global terrorist, noting the group was formed in January 2015 by former members of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who pledged allegiance to Abu Baker al-Baghdadi, leader of the ISIS/ISIL.

The United States has already blacklisted ISKP as a foreign terrorist organization, and American troops are conducting regular airstrikes against the group’s bases in Afghanistan with the help of local forces, killing thousands of militants.

Analysts say American counterterrorism airstrikes and clashes with the Afghan Taliban have prevented ISKP from expanding its regional influence and the rebranding strategy could have stemmed from those challenges.

“Khorasan chapter has been struggling to establish a footprint in Afghanistan and the region in general, and they may be following al-Qaida’s strategy to create regional affiliates,” says Muhammad Amir Rana, who heads Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute for Peace and Studies (PIPS). (VOA)