Pakistan: At least 61 dead and 150 wounded in suicide bomb attack

Army soldiers and police officers clear the way for ambulances rushing toward a bomb explosion site, at the main entry gate of police offices, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Monday, J
Army soldiers and police officers clear the way for ambulances rushing toward a bomb explosion site, at the main entry gate of police offices, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Monday, J Copyright AP
By Euronews with AP
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Most casualties were police officers as the mosque is located within a sprawling compound that also serves as the city's police headquarters.

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A suicide bomber struck a mosque in the northwestern Pakistan city of Peshawar on Monday, killing at least 61 people and wounding as many as 150, officials have said.

Most casualties were police officers as the mosque is located within a sprawling compound that also serves as the city's police headquarters.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, said Saddique Khan, a senior police official in Peshawar, but the Pakistani Taliban have been blamed for similar suicide attacks in the past. 

The bomber detonated his suicide vest as some 200 worshipers were praying inside or heading to the mosque for prayers. 

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 travel so deep inside the zone unnoticed.

The impact of the explosion collapsed the roof of the mosque, which caved in and injured many, 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 doesn't know how he survived unhurt. He could hear cries and screams after the bomb exploded, Gul said.

Rescuers scrambled trying to remove mounds of debris from the mosque grounds and get to worshippers still trapped under the rubble, police said. At a nearby hospital, many of the wounded were listed in critical condition as the casualty toll rose.

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif in a statement 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. “My prayers & condolences go to victims families," said the ex-premier. 

“It is imperative we improve our intelligence gathering & properly equip our police forces to combat the growing threat of terrorism.”

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 the Pakistani military presence in the country’s former tribal regions.

Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant attacks since November when the Pakistani Taliban ended their cease-fire with government forces.

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