ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR - Eleven people including a judge and four lawyers were killed Monday morning in a brazen gun and suicide attack on a court complex (district courts) in Islamabad, a rare strike at the heart of the heavily-guarded federal capital. At least 29 other people were injured.
Lawyers and judges fled from their chambers seeking shelter from bullets as fear and panic gripped the premises. The heartless gunmen kept on spraying bullets indiscriminately, on men and women alike.
The Pakistani Taliban denied any connection to the assault, which came two days after the militants announced a month-long ceasefire aimed at restarting stalled peace talks with the government.
However, a spokesman for the Ahrar-ul-Hind militant group, which recently split from the main Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) umbrella group, claimed the attack.
Raja Mohammed Yamin, an advocate, said he saw two young men dressed in commando gear - wearing what appeared to be suicide vests - open fire.
Inspector General Islamabad Police Sikandar Hayat said that firing broke out at 9am, followed by two suicide blasts. He said that there were two attackers. However, there are conflicting reports about the number of attackers.
The IG said one suicide bomber attacked the court of Additional Sessions Judge‚ while the other hit a place near the office of Bar Association. He said it seems that the attackers intended to free their arrested accomplices‚ but they could not achieve their target.
Initial reports said the bombers carried out suicide attacks outside the court room of Additional Sessions Judge Rafaqat Awan who was hearing an important case. Pools of blood and severed body parts were scattered on the floor of the courtroom. The head and feet of a suicide attacker were found, and taken for investigation by officials.
Rescue teams shifted the injured and dead bodies to Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS).
Medics said the judge received a bullet to his chest and died during treatment, adding that at least 29 injured people were brought to the PIMS hospital with bullet injuries.
The slain judge, Rafaqat Awan, last year rejected a petition to prosecute former military ruler Pervez Musharraf over a deadly raid on Islamabad’s radical Red Mosque in 2007. Other eyewitnesses said the attackers were armed with Kalashnikovs and hand grenades.
TTP spokesperson Spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said that Taliban have declared ceasefire and have nothing to do with the Islamabad blasts.
Moreover, he said that all TTP factions are obliged to follow the orders of Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah. He also denied group’s involvement on attacks on FC personnel convoy in Khyber Agency earlier Monday.
On the other hand, Asad Mansoor, spokesman for Ahrar-ul-Hind, said it staged Monday’s attack. “We claim responsibility for the attack, we are an independent group and have no links with TTP,” he told AFP.
“We were a part of TTP earlier but now we operate independently.”
Those killed in the dastardly act included Oun Azhar, Umer Tariq Akbar, Fiza Tariq, Mian Muhammad Aslam, Muhammad Riaz, Rao Rasheed, Tanveer Haider, Talib, Shabir, Haji Sanaullah and an unknown man.
Moreover, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani has taken suo moto notice of the attack. The chief justice sought report from Chief Commissioner and the IG Islamabad on Tuesday (today).
President Mamnoon Hussain, PM Nawaz Sharif, former president Asif Ali Zardari, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Senate, Speaker and Dy Speaker National Assembly, leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Altaf Hussain, JI ameer Munawar Hassan and other politicians have vehemently condemned the attack.
Following the attack, bar associations in Islamabad, Peshawar, Karachi, Lahore and other cities announced that Tuesday will be observed as Day of Mourning across the country and the law practitioners will boycott court proceedings against the terrorist attack.