56 injured; Jamaatul Ahrar claims responsibility; president, PM, others condemn blast
MARDAN: Twenty-six persons were killed and 56 others were wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) office here on Tuesday, eyewitnesses and officials said.
“The bomber blew up after the guard stopped him outside the Nadra office,” said Saeed Khan Wazir, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, Mardan Range. He added that the casualties could have been higher had the suicide bomber managed to enter the Nadra office as several applicants seeking computerised national identity cards (CNICs) were inside the office at the time of the incident.
Ihsanullah Ihsan, the spokesman for the outlawed Jamaatul Ahrar faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the bombing soon after the attack.Eyewitnesses and official sources said that an unidentified person parked his motorbike near the Nadra office located in the limits of the City Police Station on Nisatta Road at 2:30pm.
“The unidentified person wanted to enter the Nadra office through the main gate after parking the bike nearby,” an official said. However, a brave security guard, identified as Parvez Khan, stopped him for body search. The sources said that the attacker after failing to enter the office fired at the security guard and detonated his suicide vest at the entrance.
“All we could see were bodies and blood splattered everywhere while the injured were screaming in pain,” said an eyewitness, adding that the walls of the Nadra office were damaged by the impact of the ball bearings used in the explosives.
Tariq Munir, an employee of the Nadra office, said all his colleagues except security guard Pervez Khan survived the blast and were safe. “Our office was damaged and all window-panes were shattered. It was a grim experience as we saw body parts of the victims scattered all over the place just outside our office,” he added.
He said the late Pervez Khanwas a retired soldier and had been hired as a security guard. “He belonged to the Bakhshali village near Mardan,” he added.
Policemen, members of the bomb disposal unit and Rescue 1122 officials rushed to the site of the attack and shifted the injured to the Mardan Medical Complex (MMC) and the District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital. Some of the injured who were in critical condition kept dying pushing the death toll higher. Mushtaq Ghani, Adviser to Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak, said three among the critically injured had been transported to the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar.
Talking to reporters, DIG Police Saeed Khan Wazir said that body parts of the suicide bomber had been found and sent for forensic examination. He said that eight to 10 kilograms of explosives were used in the blast. He claimed that no threat alert was issued about the Nadra office. However, he admitted that alert had been issued about an attack on the security agencies’ offices. Police registered the case and started investigations.
Mardan, the second largest city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has suffered acts of terrorism in the past as well. There have been bomb explosions, rocket attacks targeting army installations, and a daring failed assault on the Punjab Regiment Centre. Polio workers too have faced attacks and government schools were blown up. The presence of militants was in the past reported from the Bakhshali, Chora, Matta and Lundkhwar areas in Mardan, but most were killed or captured and the rest escaped to the tribal areas.
The blast in Mardan shattered the lull prevailing in the province due to a decrease in terrorist attacks. The last major attack was on the Pakistan Air Force camp in Badaber near Peshawar several months ago. In the adjoining Fata, 25 people were killed in an explosion in Parachinar in the Kurram Agency early this month.
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) provincial president Khanzada Khan, who belongs to Mardan, visited the Nadra office and condemned the killing of innocent people in the suicide attack. He asked the authorities to probe the incident and bring the perpetrators of the gruesome act to task.
Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak also visited Mardan later in the day and announced compensation for the victims.Meanwhile, Governor Sardar Mahtab Ahmad Khan condemned the suicide attack and expressed deep shock and sorrow over the loss of precious lives in the blast. In a statement, the governor expressed sympathy with the members of the bereaved families and injured. He said such attacks could not deter the national resolve to eliminate militancy and terrorism.
Peshawar Bureau adds: Mardan Police had issued at least three security advisories to the attacked Nadra office but the authorities returned it, a source in the KP Police told The News.
An official said that the security guard of the office exhibited extraordinary bravery, intercepting, hugging and pulling down the suicide bomber immediately after he came to know about his intentions. Most of the casualties happened as people in large number were standing in queues near the main gate for their turn.
The source said that the deputy superintendent of police security, Mardan, had issued a letter to the Nadra office on December 28 to improve security and implement the instructions mentioned in an earlier issued security advisory.
On October 26, Sub-Inspector Abdul Hakim had handed over a security advisory to a director of the Nadra office who had refused to receive the written instructions for improving security at the office. The sub-inspector later brought the matter into the notice of the station house officer. In another advisory issued in January, the Nadra officials were asked to improve security, install closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras and take a number of other measures for the security of the office, staff and people coming there in large number.
Police all over the KP have issued security advisories to public and private establishments to improve security. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sensitive and Vulnerable Establishments and Places (Security) Act, 2015 requires police to issue advisories, an official said.
Agencies add: President Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Minister for Information Pervaiz Rashid strongly condemned the terrorist attack in Mardan on Tuesday and commiserated with the families of the innocent people who were martyred in the suicide attack.
Expressing sympathy with the bereaved families, the president and prime minister directed the concerned authorities to ensure the safety and security of life and property of people so that anti-state elements do not get an opportunity to conduct subversive activities. They also directed to provide the best medical treatment to the injured. They prayed that Almighty Allah rest the departed souls in eternal peace and grant courage to the bereaved families to bear the loss with equanimity.
Meanwhile, the US Ambassador to Pakistan, David Hale, condemned the suicide attack in Mardan.“The Embassy of the United States strongly condemns this afternoon’s horrific attack in the city of Mardan, outside the regional office of Nadra. We offer our sincerest condolences to the victims and their families. This attack on civilians shows a complete disregard for human life. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families at this time,” a statement issued by US Embassy in Islamabad quoted the US ambassador as saying.
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