Taliban suicide attack at Peshawar mosque killed 61, injures over 150

The blast occurred inside the mosque in the police lines area at 1:40 pm when worshippers were offering the Zuhr (afternoon) prayers.

ByPTI

Published Jan 31, 2023 | 2:15 AMUpdatedJan 31, 2023 | 2:15 AM

The bomber, who was in the front row, blew himself up, causing the roof to collapse on the worshippers. (Twitter)

A Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up in a Pakistan mosque packed with worshippers during afternoon prayers on Monday, 30 January.

The incident occurred in a high-security zone in the restive northwestern Peshawar city, killing at least 61 people and wounding more than 150 others, mostly policemen, officials said.

The blast occurred inside the mosque in the police lines area around 1.40 pm when worshippers, including personnel of the police, army, and bomb disposal squad, were offering the Zuhr (afternoon) prayers.

The bomber, who was in the front row, blew himself up, causing the roof to collapse on the worshippers, officials said.

Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Peshawar, Muhammad Ijaz Khan, said on Monday night that 61 people had been killed in the blast so far.

He said that 300-400 police officials were present in the area at the time of the blast. “It is apparent that a security lapse occurred,” he told reporters.

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

Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar officials have said that more than 150 people have been injured, so far.

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An act of revenge

The Pakistani Taliban, officially called the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.

They said that this was a revenge attack for slain TTP commander Omar Khalid Khorasani, who was killed in Afghanistan in August 2022.

A police official said that a portion of the mosque collapsed and several people were believed to be under it.

“We are currently focused on the rescue operations. Our first priority is to safely retrieve the people buried under the debris,” said in-charge of rescue operations Bilal Faizi.

The bomber entered the highly-secured mosque inside the police lines, where four layers of security were in place.

Investigations are on

Provincial Police Chief Moazzam Jah Ansari said that they are investigating the blast and how the bomber entered the highly-fortified mosque.

He expressed apprehensions that the bomber might have been residing in the police lines before the blast, as there are family quarters too inside the police lines.

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

Officials arrive

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

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

The prime minister called for an emergency meeting where a preliminary probe report was presented.

Briefing the prime minister, IGP Ansari stated that he was unaware of where the bomber had come from and how he managed to enter the police lines.

Peshawar Superintendent of Police (Investigation) Shazad Kaukab, whose office is close to the mosque, told reporters that the blast occurred when he just entered the mosque to offer prayers.

Condemning the attack

A collective funeral for 27 victims was offered at the police lines in the evening.

The prime minister strongly condemned the attack and stated that the attackers behind the incident “have nothing to do with Islam”.

“Terrorists want to create fear by targetting those who perform the duty of defending Pakistan,” he said and vowed that the sacrifices of the blast victims would not go in vain.

“The entire nation is standing united against the menace of terrorism,” he added.

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He also said that a comprehensive strategy would be adopted to counter the deteriorating law and order situation in restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and that the federal government would help provinces in increasing their anti-terrorism capacity.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also condemned the attack and said that “terrorist incidents before the local and general elections were meaningful”.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Haji Ghulam Ali condemned the blast and urged people to donate blood for the injured.

The injured have been shifted to Lady Reading Hospital, officials said. An emergency has been declared in the hospitals of Peshawar. The hospital has appealed citizens to donate blood for the victims.

On high alert

Security has been beefed up in other major cities, including Islamabad, after the Peshawar blast.

In Islamabad, security at all entry and exit points of the capital city has been increased and snipers have been deployed at “important points and buildings”.

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

He announced one day of mourning on Tuesday and the national flag will fly half-mast over all main buildings in the province.

Former prime minister Imran Khan strongly condemned the terrorist attack in the mosque.

“My prayers and 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,” the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf tweeted.

Previous attack

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

The TTP, set up as an umbrella group of several militant outfits in 2007, called off a ceasefire with the federal government and ordered its militants to stage terrorist attacks across the country.

The group, which is believed to be close to Al-Qaeda, has been blamed for several deadly attacks across Pakistan, including an attack on the army headquarters in 2009, assaults on military bases, and the 2008 bombing of the Marriott Hotel 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 sent shockwaves around the world and was widely condemned.

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