Pakistan mosque blast: 61 dead, more than 150 injured in Taliban suicide attack in Peshawar

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The powerful explosion occurred inside the mosque in the area of ​​the police lines at around 1:40 p.m. when worshipers, which included personnel from the police, army and bomb disposal squad, were offering the Zuhr prayers ( late).

The attacker who was present in the front row blew himself up, causing the roof to collapse on worshipers, authorities said.

Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Peshawar Muhammad Ijaz Khan said 61 people were killed in the blast.

He said between 300 and 400 police officers were present in the area at the time of the blast. “It is clear that a security breach occurred,” she told the media.

At least five deputy inspectors and the mosque’s prayer leader, Maulana Sahibzada Noorul Amin, were among the dead.

Lady Reading Hospital officials said more than 150 people were injured.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), known as the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, saying it was part of a revenge attack for slain TTP commander Umar Khalid Khurasani, who was killed in Afghanistan. last August.

A police official said that a part of the mosque collapsed and several people were believed to be below.

“Currently we are focused on the rescue operation. Our first priority is to safely recover the people buried under the rubble,” said the person in charge of the rescue operation, Bilal Faizi.

The attacker entered the high-security mosque inside police lines where there were four layers of security.

Provincial Police Chief Moazzam Jah Ansari said they are investigating the explosion and how the attacker entered the highly fortified mosque.

He expressed his fear that the attacker could have resided in the police lines before the explosion, since there are also family homes inside the police lines.

The Peshawar Police headquarters, the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD), the Border Reserve Police (FRP), the Elite Force and the telecommunication department are also located near the blast site.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Army Chief General Asim Munir headed to Peshawar to review the relief and rescue operation.

The prime minister along with the army chief also visited the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar and inquired about the health of the injured. Also present were the Minister of the Interior, Rana Sanaullah, and other officials.

The Prime Minister called an emergency meeting where the preliminary report of the investigation was presented.

Briefing the prime minister, IGP Ansari said he did not know where the attacker had come from and how he managed to get inside the police lines.

Peshawar Police (Investigation) Superintendent Shazad Kaukab, whose office is near the mosque, told the media that the explosion occurred as he had just entered the mosque to pray. He said that he fortunately survived the attack.

The collective funeral of 27 victims was offered in the police lines at night.

Earlier, Prime Minister Sharif strongly condemned the attack, saying the attackers behind the incident “have nothing to do with Islam.”

“Terrorists want to create fear by targeting those who do their duty to defend Pakistan,” he said, vowing that the sacrifices of the blast victims would not be in vain. “The entire nation is united against the threat of terrorism.”

He also said that a comprehensive strategy will be adopted to counter the deteriorating law and order situation in troubled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and that the federal government will help provinces to increase their anti-terror capabilities.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also condemned the attack, saying “terrorist incidents ahead of local and general elections were significant.”

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Haji Ghulam Ali condemned the blast and urged people to donate blood for the injured, saying it would be a “great favor for the police”.

The bodies and injured were taken to Lady Reading Hospital, authorities said.

An emergency has been declared at Peshawar hospitals. The hospital has appealed to citizens to donate blood for the victims.

Security has been tightened in other major cities, including Islamabad, after the Peshawar blast. In Islamabad, security has been increased at all entry and exit points of the capital city and snipers have been deployed at “important points and buildings”.

Acting Chief Minister Azam Khan condemned the attack and offered his condolences to the bereaved families.

He announced a day of mourning on Tuesday.

The national flag will fly at half mast over all major buildings in the province.

Former Prime Minister Imran Khan strongly condemned the terrorist attack on the mosque.

“My prayers and condolences go out to the families of the victims. It is imperative that we improve our intelligence gathering and properly equip our police forces to combat the growing threat of terrorism,” Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf tweeted.

Last year, a similar attack inside a Shiite mosque in the Kocha Risaldar area of ​​the city killed 63 people.

The TTP, created as an umbrella group of various militant groups in 2007, called off a ceasefire with the federal government and ordered its militants to carry out terror attacks across the country.

The group, believed to be close to al-Qaeda, has been blamed for several deadly attacks in Pakistan, including a 2009 attack on army headquarters, attacks on military bases and the 2008 Marriott Hotel bombing. in Islamabad.

In 2014, the Pakistani Taliban stormed the Army Public School (APS) in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing at least 150 people, including 131 students. The attack shocked the entire world and was widely condemned.

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