North-western Pakistan was struck by two separate militant attacks hours apart yesterday, when gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed a Christian colony near the town of Peshawar, killing one civilian, and a suicide bomb attack on a district court in the town of Mardan killed 12 people and wounded 54 others.
Militants stormed the Christian neighbourhood early yesterday morning, triggering a shoot-out in which four attackers were killed and one Christian died, police and the military said. Three security officials and two civilian guards were wounded in the attack.
Army spokesman Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa said in a statement that the attack was quickly repulsed and that security forces were searching for any accomplices.
Local police official Shaukat Khan said four suicide bombers entered the Christian colony. One of them went into a church, but no-one was there at the time.
He said the attackers killed one Christian in the neighbourhood. It was not immediately clear if any of the suicide bombers had detonated their explosives.
The quick response from the local civilian guards and security forces prevented more deaths, Khan said.
Ahsanullah Ahsan, a spokesman for Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a breakaway Taleban faction, claimed responsibility for the attack.
In the town of Mardan, some 25 miles from Peshawar, a suicide bomber threw a grenade at the district court before detonating his explosives, according to government spokesman Mushtaq Ghani.
A rescue official, Bilal Jalal, said at least 12 people were killed and another 54 wounded in the suicide attack at the court, among them lawyers, policemen and passers-by. He said some of the wounded in a critical condition.
A local police official, Ijaz Ahmed Khan, said the attacker apparently wanted to target a gathering of lawyers but was thwarted by police.
When a policeman asked the attacker to stop, the attacker threw a grenade at him, killing the officer, Mr Khan said. A second policeman then opened fire at the attacker, who detonated his explosives. Lawyer Adil Hussain confirmed the police account.
Pakistan has been struck by a number of large-scale militant attacks in recent months, including a March suicide bombing targeting Christians celebrating Easter in a park in the city of Lahore that killed about 70.