At least ten people were killed and nearly 50 others injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a crowded court complex in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Monday, the latest in a wave of deadly terrorist attacks across the country.
The bomber, who came to the court complex in a rickshaw, tried to flee when he was challenged by police, said North West Frontier Province Senior Minister Bashir Bilour.
He blew himself up when police opened fire, the minister told mediapersons at the site of the explosion.
Ten people, including two policemen and as many lawyers, were killed in the blast.
Nearly 50 injured people were brought to the Lady Reading Hospital and four of them were in a serious condition. Several policemen, lawyers and passers-by were among the injured.
Bilour said there could have been more casualties if the bomber had managed to enter the sessions court complex on Jail Road, a high-security area.
To a question about claims that India and the United States were behind such attacks, he said, "No Americans or RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) agents are carrying out these blasts."
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday's bombing, but most of such attacks in the last few months have been blamed on the Pakistani Taliban. The group has carried out a series of revenge attacks since Pakistani security forces launched a massive offensive against them in the restive northwest tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.
Peshawar, the capital of the troubled North West Frontier Province, has borne the brunt of the wave of terrorist attacks across Pakistan.
In the past few weeks, car bombs and suicide attackers have targeted public places like markets, police check posts and security facilities in Peshawar, including the provincial headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency. Hundreds have died in these attacks.
The sessions court complex is located a short distance from a hostel for provincial legislators, the provincial home department, Peshawar museum, central jail and governor's house.
The explosion sparked a fire that destroyed the auto-rickshaw used by the bomber and several cars.
Officials of the bomb disposal squad said the head, legs and body parts of the bomber and parts of the suicide jacket had been found. Six to seven kilograms of explosives were used in the attack, they said.
Police cordoned off the area and sealed key roads as ambulances took the injured to nearby hospitals. An emergency was declared in the city hospitals.
This was the second time a court complex in Peshawar was targeted by a suicide bomber. On November 19, a suicide attacker struck the Judicial Complex within the city's cantonment, killing 19 people and injuring 50 others.
Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani strongly condemned Monday's blast. He directed the authorities to conduct an inquiry into the incident.