PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — A group of suicide bombers with grenades and assault rifles struck outside a courthouse in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing six people in an attack claimed by a Taliban splinter group.
The attack was the latest in a wave of militant assaults across the troubled country that has killed over 100 people since last week. The brazen suicide bombings have been claimed by mutiple Islamic militant groups.
In Tuesday's attack, three attackers hit the courthouse in the town of Tangi in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, bordering Afghanistan. The victims included a lawyer, a child and four police officers, according to Ijaz Khan, a senior police officer.
He said police were on maximum alert after receiving intelligence that terrorists could target the courts in Charsadda. One of the bombers threw grenades and detonated his suicide vest at the court's main gate while police shot and killed the two other assailants, according to the district police chief, Sohail Khalid.
The other two also wore suicide vests but did not manage to set them off before being gunned down.
Khalid said 15 people were wounded in the attack and taken to hospital.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility in a text message sent to an Associated Press reporter.
In one of the attacks last week, dozens of worshippers gathered at a famed Sufi shrine were killed Thursday when an Islamic State suicide bomber detonated his device inside the shrine's main hall in the southern province of Sindh. The death toll from that attack has reached 90.
The shrine bombing prompted a countrywide crackdown by security forces targeting militants and their hideouts.
Pakistan's army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa praised police for foiling the attack and "saving many lives," according to the military statement.
Mian Saqib Nisar, the chief justice of Pakistan, strongly condemned the attack in a statement and expressed his condolences for families of those who lost loved ones.
In a latest development, Zafar Iqbal Jhagra, governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, told reporters that fresh talks with the militants cannot be ruled out. "Talks can be held with everyone, including the Taliban," he said.
But he maintained that, "We will not bow before the terrorists."
Pakistan has been at war with Islamic militants for more than a decade. In recent years, it severed peace talks and launched an ongoing offensive against militant strongholds in the tribal regions along the Afghan border, but insurgents have continued to carry out attacks around the country.
Associated Press writers Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan, and Munir Ahmed and Asif Shahzad in Islamabad contributed to this report.