The death toll from a suicide bombing at a mosque in northwestern Pakistan rose to 88 on Tuesday, officials said. The attack on a Sunni mosque inside a major police compound was one of the deadliest attacks against Pakistani security forces in recent years.
More than 300 worshipers were praying at a mosque in Peshawar city, but came closer Monday morning when bombers fired explosive vests. The blast ripped through the mosque, causing numerous casualties and blowing off part of its roof.
Police officer Zafar Khan said what remained of the roof collapsed, injuring many more. had to be removed.
More bodies were recovered during the night and early Tuesday morning, according to Mohammad Asim, a spokesperson for Peshawar’s government hospital, and several of those seriously injured died. “Most of them were police officers.” Asim said of the victims.
Rescue chief Bilal Faizi said on Tuesday that rescuers were still working at the scene as more people were believed to be trapped inside. Mourners buried bombing victims in various cemeteries in the city and elsewhere. The bombing also wounded him over 150 people.
It is not clear how the bombers managed to sneak into the walled compound in the high security zone along with other government buildings and reach the mosque.
Ghulam Ali, governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, of which Peshawar is the capital, said the investigation would reveal “how the terrorists entered the mosque.”
“Yes, it was a security blunder,” he said.
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif visited a hospital in Peshawar after the bombing and vowed to take “tough action” against those behind the attack.
The scale of the attack was “unimaginable”, says Prime Minister
“The scale of human tragedy is unimaginable. This is nothing less than an attack on Pakistan,” he tweeted. He expressed his condolences to his bereaved family, describing it as “unspeakable pain.”
Authorities have not identified who was behind the blast. Shortly after the explosion, Sarbakaf Mohmand, the commander of Pakistan’s Taliban, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the attack in a post on Twitter.
But hours later, TTP spokesman Mohammad Kurasani said it was not their policy to target mosques, seminaries, and religious sites, and those who took part in such acts were under TTP policy. His statement did not mention why the TTP commander claimed responsibility for the bombing.
Pakistan, which is predominantly Sunni Muslim, has seen a surge in militant attacks since November when the Pakistani Taliban ended a ceasefire with government forces.
Earlier this month, Pakistan’s Taliban claimed that one of its members shot dead two operatives, including the director of the counter-terrorism division of the country’s military-based spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence. Security officials said Monday that a gunman was tracked down and killed in a shootout in the northwest near the Afghan border.
The TTP is a separate but close ally of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The TTP has rebelled in Pakistan over the past 15 years, enforcing Islamic law more stringently, releasing members from government custody, and reducing the presence of Pakistani forces in areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province that it has long used as a base. asked to shrink. .
Pakistan’s Taliban have a strong presence in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and Peshawar has been the scene of frequent militant attacks. In 2014, Pakistani Taliban factions attacked an army-run school in Peshawar, killing 154 students.
Regional branches of ISIS have also been behind deadly attacks in Pakistan in recent years. Since the Afghan Taliban seized power in neighboring Afghanistan in August 2021, violence has also increased as US and her NATO forces withdraw from the country after two decades of war.
The Pakistani government’s truce with the TTP ended as it battled unprecedented floods that killed 1,739 people, destroyed more than 2 million homes, and at one point submerged a third of the country.
Peshawar bombing ‘terrifying’, says Blinken
Afghanistan’s foreign ministry, which is run by the Taliban, said it was “sad to learn that many people lost their lives” in Peshawar and condemned the attacks on worshipers as contrary to Islamic teachings.
US Secretary of State Anthony Brinken, who is visiting the Middle East, offered his condolences by tweeting that the Peshawar bombing was a “horrible attack”.
“Terrorism anywhere for any reason is indefensible,” he said.
Condemnation also came from the Saudi and US embassies in Islamabad. “The United States supports Pakistan in condemning all forms of terrorism,” the U.S. Embassy said.
Cash-strapped Pakistan faces a severe economic crisis and is seeking a crucial $1.1 billion installment from the International Monetary Fund (part of a $6 billion bailout package) to avoid default. Talks with the IMF on reviving the bailout have stalled in the past few months.