Pakistan suicide bomb in Peshawar kills at least 19

The suicide bomb near a Peshawar courthouse in Pakistan could have killed more if the attacker had been able to enter the building. Peshawar has seen near-daily bombings since the Pakistani military's South Waziristan offensive began.

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    Volunteers gather outside a courthouse after a suicide bombing in Peshawar, Pakistan on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009. The suicide bomber killed at least 16 people Thursday, the latest attack in an onslaught by Islamist militants fighting back against an army offensive in the nearby Afghan border region.
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A bombing at a courthouse has left at least 19 people dead and dozens injured after a suicide attack in Peshawar, Pakistan. Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, government officials are blaming the Pakistani Taliban.

This latest attack comes as the Pakistani military continues its major offensive against Taliban and Al Qaeda militants in the South Waziristan, a stronghold for the groups. Peshawar has been the scene of many attacks in recent months, which may be designed to raise questions among the civilian population about the effectiveness of their government's military campaign.

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Despite the high death toll of the courthouse bombing, officials say it could have been much worse had Pakistani police not intercepted the bomber before he entered the courthouse. Witnesses say that police stopped the bomber at a checkpoint just outside the crowded building and the bomber detonated his explosives when police began to search him, reports the Times of London. Khaista Gull, the police officer who stopped the bomber from entering the courthouse, was killed in the blast and is being hailed as a hero by government officials who say Gull averted a "major catastrophe."

The government has increased security across Pakistan, according to the BBC, but it remains unable to stop attacks such as Thursday's bombing. Since the Pakistani Army started its Waziristan offensive near the Afghan border almost three weeks ago, the number of attacks throughout Pakistan have climbed dramatically.

Peshawar, the capital of the restive North West Frontier Province, has borne the brunt of these recent attacks, with seven bombings in just the past two weeks, reports Al Jazeera. The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for a number of these attacks, which have targeted checkpoints, regional headquarters for Pakistan's intelligence agency, police stations, and hotels.

In the past month, 400 people have been killed in bombings throughout major cities in Pakistan, including Lahore and Islamabad as well. Pakistani authorities contend that the attacks are in retaliation for their offensive. According to the Pakistani military, about 80 percent of terrorist attacks within Pakistan were being planned in South Waziristan, reports Bloomberg. Meanwhile, government officials say their forces are making great strides against the Taliban.

"The army has captured all strongholds of terrorists in South Waziristan," Gilani told reporters. Almost all militants have either been killed or have escaped, [Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani] said.
Troops will pursue militants into the mountains and forests of the area as the military takes control of major roads and towns within a couple of weeks, spokesman Athar Abbas said in an interview last week.

Although the Pakistani government has vowed to continue its fight against terrorism, officials have told citizens to brace themselves for more attacks like Thursday's before the problem can be brought under control, reports Dawn, a Pakistani daily.

A senior minister in his cabinet said the government would not succumb to pressure from militants' bombings and would not negotiate with them.
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