Blast at government office in Pakistan kills at least 16

Security officials cordoning off the blast site in Mardan, Pakistan, on Dec 29, 2015.
Security officials cordoning off the blast site in Mardan, Pakistan, on Dec 29, 2015. PHOTO: DAWN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A suicide bomber attacked a government office in Pakistan on Tuesday (Dec 29), killing at least 16 people and wounding more than 30, officials said.

A Pakistani Taleban faction claimed responsibility for the attack on a branch of the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), which issues government ID cards, in the north-western city of Mardan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

“A suicide bomber riding an explosives-laden motorcycle hit the Nadra office in Mardan where a large number of people were standing in queues,” police officer Naeem Khan told Reuters.

At least 16 bodies and 34 wounded were brought to Bacha Khan Medical Complex, medical superintendent Dr Zulfiqar Durrani said by telephone.  

A Nadra employee, Mohammad Tariq, was inside when he heard the huge blast outside the office premises. “We are still inside the office, and the police and rescue workers are busy in their work,” he said.  

Jamaat ur Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistani Taleban that is fighting to overthrow the government and establish hard-line Islamist rule, claimed responsibility.

Spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said the office was part of the “heathen Pakistan state” and therefore a legitimate target. “God willing, we will target all Pakistani organisations that are either directly or indirectly a part of this war,”Ehsan said in a statement.

The Pakistani Taleban once controlled swathes of remote territory in the north-west, but a series of military offensives that began in 2009 has pushed them back into a few pockets.

There have been fewer militant attacks in towns and cities over the past year or so, compared with several years ago, but the Taleban remain a potent threat.