PESHAWAR - Security forces Friday fended off four suicide bombers trying to attack a Christian colony on Warsak Road near Peshawar.

All four attackers (who were armed with suicide vests and hand grenades) were killed along with a guard at the entrance to the colony, an army statement said. Three other personnel sustained injuries during the retaliation.

According to police and ISPR, the thwarted attack came in the early hours, around 5:30am, 60 kilometres to the west of Mardan where a suicide bomber killed 14 people the same day.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attempt in Peshawar as well as the Mardan attacks, terming them a reaction to a press conference of Army Chief General Raheel Sharif.

The group has also said it was behind the attack on lawyers in Quetta on August 8 in which 73 people were killed, as well as the Lahore Easter bombing which killed 75 people in Pakistan's deadliest attack this year.

According to security sources, the four terrorists stormed the Christian colony killing the security guard on spot.

SP Cantt Kashif Zulfiqar said that one of the attackers made a separate entry. He said three of them took refuge in an under-construction building in the colony upon being confronted by the paramilitary forces. All the four were later killed by the Quick Response Force, he added.

“We have enhanced security of Christian’s establishments, schools, hospitals, colonies and churches. Police has sensitised the administration regarding security alert. Schools security has also been beefed up,” he added.

The injured security personnel were taken to Lady Reading Hospital for treatment. They included two private security guards - Khud Ali and Najeem – while the third one was police constable Sajjad who was wounded seriously.

Red alert was declared in the cantonment area and army helicopter patrol the area to foil the escape of terrorists elements from the colony. House search operation was carried out in the area and personnel of Bomb Disposal Squad reached the site and defused the suicide vests.

Investigators recovered Afghan SIMs from the mobile phones of the dead militants, through which they were taking directives from Afghanistan, security sources said.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali, KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, Provincial Information Minister Mushtaq Ghani and Governor Engineer Iqbal Zafar Jhagra condemned the Peshawar attack bid and appreciated security forces on their successful operation against terrorists.

Bloody past

TTP and its splinters routinely target minority groups and soft targets such as courts and schools. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has suffered most from terrorism and Peshawar has always been a proffered target of the militants for its being capital of the province.

The worst attack in KP came in December 2014 when Taliban gunmen massacred more than 150 people, most of them children, at an army-run school in Peshawar. However, there was a pause in terrorist activities in Peshawar city since March, when terrorists targeted a passengers bus carrying government employees from Dargai area to Peshawar.

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.

Horrific ‘reminder’

Friday's attacks were "a horrific reminder that Pakistan's authorities must do more to ensure vulnerable groups are protected," said Amnesty International South Asia director Champa Patel.

"Armed groups are seeking to undermine the rule of law by targeting both the people who defend it in court and the people it should protect."