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Armed Conflict

Militants carry out deadly attack on political office in Peshawar

Gunmen have carried out a deadly attack on the compound of a top political official in Peshawar, Pakistan. There were reportedly suicide bombers involved in the raid.

Officials reported hearing gunfire and an explosion after the armed attackers entered the compound on Monday. A top political official was reportedly holding a meeting when the raid occurred.

"Firing started inside the political compound, and then there was a heavy blast," local politician Niaz Ahmad Khan told Reuters news agency.

Another local leader at the meeting, Muhammad Iqbal Afridi, described a similar scene to the news agency AFP.

"Then there was intense exchange of firing between the militants and the security forces," he said. "Later, security forces evacuated us from the building."

At least five were killed and several injured, among them security guards, according to hospital personnel.

Agencies did not name the senior official targeted in the attack.

Militants disguised as policemen began the offensive during a prisoner delivery to the compound. At least two of the attackers detonated their suicide vests once that had entered the compound, according to officials.

Mass protests against sectarian violence

Meanwhile, thousands took to the streets on Monday in a call for military intervention to end sectarian violence. At least 4,000 protesters took to the streets in the southwestern city of Quetta, where a bombing over the weekend had killed at least 80 people, most of whom were Shiite Muslims. The Sunni group Lashker-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the attack.

Violence has increased across Pakistan as the country prepares for a national election. Most of the victims have been Shiite Muslims, a minority population that has been targeted in numerous sectarian attacks by Sunni militant groups over the past year.

Two suicide bombings in Quetta killed nearly 90 people in early January, sparking days of protests. The demonstrations prompted Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to fly to the southwestern city, where he sacked the provincial government.

According to Human Rights Watch, 2012 was the deadliest year on record for Pakistan's Shiites with some 400 deaths, mostly from drive-by shootings.

kms/mkg (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)