Fourth suicide bomber strikes Pakistan in one day

February 16, 2017

Four suicide bombers struck Pakistan in one day Wednesday, killing six people and unnerving citizens whose growing sense of security has been shaken by multiple Taliban blasts this week.

The latest assault happened in the northwestern city of Peshawar, said police, after a bomber rode a motorcycle into a van carrying several judges that was travelling through an upmarket neighbourhood.

"It was a suicide attack," senior police official Sajjad Khan told AFP.

Khan said the van driver was killed in the attack, which was claimed by the umbrella group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, or Pakistani Taliban).

Five people -- including at least four judges, three of them female -- were injured, he added.

Earlier in the day two suicide bombers launched an assault on a government compound in the Mohmand tribal region in the northwest, killing five people and wounding seven.

One was shot dead before he could detonate the bomb while the other blew himself up at the gate of the compound, local officials said.

Later, police said, another suicide bomber blew himself up when security forces surrounded him during a search operation in the area.

Wednesday's attacks came two days after a powerful suicide bombing rocked the Punjab provincial capital Lahore, killing at least 13 people and wounding dozens more.

Also on Monday two members of a bomb disposal unit were killed in Quetta, the capital of restive Balochistan province, when a device they were defusing went off. It was unclear if the Quetta bomb was related to the other attacks.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, has claimed the attacks in Lahore and Mohmand. Last week the group vowed a fresh wave of assaults on government installations.

Spokesman for both Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and the main TTP told AFP Wednesday the attacks would continue.

The deadly assaults prompted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to convene a security review with the powerful military chief and senior government officials.

They "reiterated the national resolve of complete physical and ideological annihilation of terrorism and extremism", according to a statement from the PM's office.

Pakistan has seen a dramatic improvement in security since its deadliest-ever extremist attack -- a Pakistani Taliban assault on a school in Peshawar in 2014 which left more than 150 people dead, mostly children, and prompted a government and military crackdown.

The army intensified a long-awaited operation in the semi-autonomous tribal areas, where militants had previously operated with impunity, and the government launched a vaunted National Action Plan against extremism.

Emboldened Pakistanis are once again attending public gatherings and a sense of optimism is palpable after more than a decade of militant attacks.

But critics have repeatedly warned that the crackdown does not address the root causes of extremism, and homegrown groups like the Pakistani Taliban can still carry out spectacular assaults.

"Another tragic attack, this time in Peshawar after Quetta and Lahore," wrote Siraj-ul-Haq, chief of Pakistan's main Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami, on Twitter. "This new wave of terrorist attacks is worrisome."