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11 dead, dozens wounded in Pakistan court blast: police
[PESHAWAR] At least 11 people have been killed and up to 40 wounded after a suicide bomber attacked a court in the Pakistani city of Mardan Friday, police said, the latest assault targeting Pakistan's legal community.
The bomber shot his way through the main gate leading to the district court, before throwing a hand grenade then detonating his suicide vest among the morning crowds, senior police official Ejaz Khan told reporters.
"The death toll has risen to 11," he said, after officials had earlier put it at 10.
Mr Khan and another police official, Faisal Shehzad, said the dead included at least two policemen as well as lawyers and clerks. The bomber had up to eight kilogrammes of explosives packed into his vest.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes three weeks after a massive suicide blast killed scores of lawyers in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, in Balochistan.
Friday's blast came as security forces fended off four suicide bombers who were trying to attack a Christian colony in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial capital of Peshawar, 60 kilometres to the west of Mardan.
Soldiers backed by army helicopters exchanged gunfire with militants in suicide vests who had tried to attack the colony near Warsak Dam, just north of Peshawar, the army said.
All four attackers were killed along with a guard at the entrance to the colony, the statement said, adding that the situation is "under control".
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attempt.
The group has also said it was behind the attack on lawyers in Quetta, which killed 73 people on Aug 8, as well as the Lahore Easter bombing which killed 75 people in Pakistan's deadliest attack this year.
Discrimination and violence against religious minorities is commonplace in Pakistan, where Muslims account for more than 90 per cent of the population, while the legal community are also frequently the subjects of targeted killings and attacks.
The Pakistani Taliban in particular routinely target minority groups and soft targets such as courts and schools.
Taliban militants stormed a school in Peshawar in Dec 2014, killing more than 150 people, mostly children, in Pakistan's deadliest-ever terror attack.
The army launched an operation in June 2014 in a bid to wipe out militant bases in the tribal areas and so bring an end to the bloody insurgency that has cost thousands of civilian lives since 2004.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned Friday's attacks, adding that militants were on the back foot and were "showing (their) frustration by attacking soft targets".
"They shall not get space to hide in Pakistan," he added.