Peshawar: suicide bomber kills at least 100 in Pakistan mosque as 225 other people injured
The attacker was reportedly on the front row during afternoon prayers
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The death toll from a suicide bombing on Monday (30 January) has risen to 100 people. The attack took place on a Sunni mosque inside a major police facility in the north-west Pakistan city of Peshawar.
More than 225 people were injured while worshippers were saying their Zohr (afternoon) prayers.
Most of the casualties were police officers as the targeted mosque is located within a sprawling compound, which also serves as the city’s police headquarters.
Saddique Khan, a senior police official in Peshawar, said no one has immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing. In the past, the Pakistani Taliban have been blamed for similar suicide attacks.
According to security officials, the suicide attacker was present in the front row during the prayers when he detonated a bomb. There are fears the death toll will rise further as many of the wounded were in critical condition.
Geo News reports the injured were moved to the Lady Reading Hospital of Peshawar.
The impact of the explosion caused the roof of the mosque to cave in, which injured many of the worshippers including policemen from nearby offices, according to Zafar Khan, a local police officer.
A survivor, 38-year-old police officer Meena Gul, said he was inside the mosque when the bomb went off. He said he could hear cries and screams after the bomb exploded.
Rescuers tried to remove mounds of debris from the mosque grounds and get to worshippers still trapped under the rubble, police said.
More bodies were retrieved overnight and early on Tuesday, according to Mohammad Asim, a government hospital spokesman in Peshawar, and several of those critically injured died.
“Most of them were policemen,” he said of the victims.
Chief rescue official Bilal Faizi said rescue teams were still working at the site on Tuesday as more people are believed to be trapped inside.
Mourners were burying the victims at different graveyards in the city and elsewhere.
It was not clear how the bomber was able to slip into the walled compound in a high-security zone with other government buildings and get to the mosque – an indication of a major security lapse.
An investigation will show “how the terrorist entered the mosque” said Ghulam Ali, the provincial governor in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where Peshawar is the capital.
“Yes, it was a security lapse,” he added.
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif visited a hospital in Peshawar after the bombing and vowed “stern action” against those behind the attack.
“The sheer scale of the human tragedy is unimaginable. This is no less than an attack on Pakistan,” he tweeted.
He expressed his condolences to the families of the victims, saying their pain ”cannot be described in words”.
Authorities have not determined who was behind the bombing. However, shortly after the explosion, Sarbakaf Mohmand, a commander for the Pakistani Taliban – also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP – claimed responsibility for the attack in a post on Twitter.
But hours later, TTP spokesman Mohammad Khurasani distanced the group from the bombing, saying it is not its policy to target mosques, seminaries and religious places, adding that those taking part in such acts could face punitive action under TTP’s policy.
His statement did not address why a TTP commander had claimed responsibility for the bombing.
Caretaker Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Muhammad Azam Khan imposed a medical emergency in all hospitals of Peshawar. The interim CM also instructed rescue organisations to speed up relief activities.
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif condemned the bombing and ordered authorities to ensure the best possible medical treatment to the victims. He also vowed “stern action” against those who were behind the attack.
Former prime minister Imran Khan also condemned the bombing, calling it a “terrorist suicide attack” in a Twitter posting. He wrote: “My prayers & condolences go to victims families.
“It is imperative we improve our intelligence gathering & properly equip our police forces to combat the growing threat of terrorism.”
Attacks on Peshawar
Peshawar is the capital of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan and has been the scene of frequent militant attacks.
The Pakistani Taliban, are known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, and are a separate group but also a close ally of the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in neighbouring Afghanistan in August 2021 as US and Nato troops were in the final stages of their pullout from the country after 20 years of war.
The TTP has waged an insurgency in Pakistan over the past 15 years, fighting for stricter enforcement of Islamic laws in the country, the release of their members who are in government custody and a reduction of Pakistani military presence in the country’s former tribal regions.