At least 16 people, including two police officers, were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up Monday at the gate of a judicial complex in northeastern Pakistan, officials said.
Senior police officer Saeed Wazir said the bomber was heading toward the main judicial compound in the town of Charsadda, about 15 miles from the city of Peshawar, where hundreds of litigants were present. Authorities said the death toll had increased from 11 to 16.
“If the bomber had reached the main compound, then the death toll could have been three times higher,” he said.
The Pakistani Taliban, the outlawed militant group, claimed responsibility through a spokesman identified as Ehsanullah Ehsan. In a statement released to media outlets, he said that the judges had made decisions that contradicted "the will of Allah" and that innocent people were being executed.
The statement said the attack was carried out to avenge the execution of Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, who was executed in January for the murder of the former governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, in January 2011.
Officials said the bomber exchanged gunfire with guards before detonating explosives wrapped around his body.
Hospital sources said that after the blast, eight bodies were brought to the town’s main hospital and 14 people were receiving treatment. One female police officer and three male officers were among the wounded.
The explosion caused damage to nearby buildings, and three cars parked in the compound caught fire.
The Pakistani Taliban has been engaged in a long-running insurgency against the Islamabad government. On Jan. 20, its militants claimed responsibility for a raid on Bacha Khan University in Charsadda in which 18 students and teachers were killed.
Ali is a special correspondent.