Suicide bomber kills at least 34 in Pakistan mosque
A suicide bomber has struck a mosque in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, killing at least 34 worshipers and injuring up to 150.
Most of the victims were police officers, as the mosque attacked is located on a vast compound that also serves as the city’s police headquarters.
Sarbakaf Mohmand, a commander of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter.
The assassin detonated his suicide vest when around 300 to 350 worshipers were praying indoors or going to the mosque for prayers.
Soldiers and police patrol the area (Muhammad Sajjad/AP)
The police compound is located in a high-security zone in Peshawar, along with several government buildings, and it was unclear how the bomber managed to get so deep into the zone unnoticed.
The force of the blast caused the mosque’s roof to collapse, injuring many, according to Zafar Khan, a local police officer.
One survivor, police officer Meena Gul, 38, said he was at the mosque when the bomb went off. He said he heard screams and screams after the bomb went off.
Rescuers struggled to clear piles of rubble from the mosque grounds and get to worshipers who were still trapped under the rubble. At a nearby hospital, many of the wounded were in critical condition as the death toll mounted.
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif condemned the bombing and instructed the authorities to ensure the best possible medical care for the victims. He also promised “tight action” against those behind the attack.
Former Prime Minister Imran Khan also condemned the bombing, calling it a “suicide terrorist attack” in a Twitter post.
People carry an injured victim to a hospital in Peshawar (Muhammad Sajjad/AP)
“My prayers and condolences go out to the families of the victims,” said the ex-premier. “It is imperative that we improve our intelligence gathering and adequately equip our police forces to combat the growing threat of terrorism.”
Peshawar is the capital of the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa bordering Afghanistan and has often been the scene of militant attacks.
The Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, are a separate group but also a close ally of the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in neighboring Afghanistan in August 2021 when US and NATO forces invaded the final stages were their withdrawal from the country after 20 years of war.
The TTP has led an insurgency in Pakistan for the past 15 years, fighting for stricter enforcement of Islamic law in the country, the release of its members in government custody and a reduction in the Pakistani military presence in the country’s former tribal areas.
Pakistan has seen a surge in militant attacks since November, when the Pakistani Taliban ended their ceasefire with government forces.
Injured victims of a suicide bombing are taken to hospital in a truck (Muhammad Sajjad/AP)
The ceasefire ended as Pakistan was still grappling with last summer’s unprecedented floods that killed 1,739 people, destroyed more than two million homes and at one point submerged a third of the country.
Flood damage totaled more than $30 billion and authorities are still struggling to organize tents, shelter and food for survivors.
Troubled Pakistan is also currently in an economic crisis and is seeking a crucial $1.1 billion installment from the International Monetary Fund – part of its $6 billion bailout package – to avoid a default. Talks with the IMF about reviving the rescue package have stalled in recent months.
Mr Sharif’s government came to power last April after Imran Khan was ousted in a vote of no confidence in Parliament. He has since campaigned for snap elections, claiming his ouster was illegal and part of a US-backed conspiracy. Washington and Mr Sharif have dismissed Mr Khan’s claims.