Pakistan mosque suicide bombing death toll reaches 88

Security officials and rescue workers at the scene of the blast. (Photo: Zubair Khan/AP)

Tuesday, officials reported that the death toll from a suicide bombing at a mosque in northwestern Pakistan had grown to 88.

The attack on a Sunni mosque within a large police complex in Peshawar was among the worst on Pakistani security personnel in recent years, injuring more than 150 people.

Monday morning, when the bomber detonated his explosive vest, some 300 people were praying in the mosque, with more on their way.

The explosion tore through the structure, killing and wounding dozens of people and ripping off a portion of the roof.

According to police officer Zafar Khan, what remained of the roof collapsed, causing additional injuries.

To reach worshippers buried in the rubble, rescuers were required to clear debris mounds.

According to Mohammad Asim, a spokesman for the government hospital in Peshawar, more bodies were recovered overnight and early Tuesday morning, and some of the critically injured perished.

"The majority were police officers," he stated of the victims.

On Tuesday, the chief rescue officer, Bilal Faizi, stated that rescue teams continued to work at the site since other persons feared being trapped.

The victims were buried in various cemeteries throughout the city and elsewhere.

How the bomber could enter the walled compound in a high-security zone with other government buildings and get access to the mosque was unclear — an indication of a significant security breach.

A probe will reveal "how the terrorist entered the mosque," according to Ghulam Ali, the provincial governor of Peshawar's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

"Yes, there was a security breach," he confirmed.

After the blast, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif visited a hospital in Peshawar and threatened "stern action" against those responsible.

"The magnitude of the human catastrophe is incomprehensible. This is a direct assault on Pakistan," he said.

He extended his sympathies to the victims' families, stating that their suffering "cannot be put into words."

Authorities have not identified the perpetrators of the bombing.

Sarbakaf Mohmand, a leader for the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, claimed responsibility for the attack in a tweet shortly after the explosion.

However, hours later, TTP spokesman Mohammad Khurasani distanced the group from the attack, stating that it is not the organisation's goal to target mosques, seminaries, and religious sites and that anybody involved in such activities could face retaliation.

In his remarks, he did not explain why a TTP commander claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Since November, when the Pakistani Taliban ended their truce with government forces, there has been an increase in militant strikes in the predominantly Sunni Muslim nation.

The group claimed earlier this month that one of its members shot and murdered two intelligence officers, including the director of the counter-terrorism branch of the military-based spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence.

Security officials reported that the gunman had been located and killed in a gunfight near the Afghan border on Monday.

The TTP is distinct from the Afghan Taliban but a close ally. In Pakistan, it has maintained an insurgency for the past 15 years, seeking more vigorous enforcement of Islamic law, releasing its members in government detention, and reducing Pakistani military presence in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province that have long served as its stronghold.

Peshawar has been the target of numerous attacks by the largest insurgent group in the province, the Pakistani Taliban, and is also a frequent target.

In 2014, a Pakistani Taliban affiliate stormed an army-run school in Peshawar, killing 154 people, most of whom were students.

In recent years, the Islamic State's regional offshoot has also been responsible for deadly attacks in Pakistan.

Since the Afghan Taliban gained power in neighbouring Afghanistan in August 2021, as US and NATO soldiers withdrew from the country following 20 years of war, the overall level of violence has grown.

The Pakistani government halted its cease-fire with the TTP when the country was still recovering from last summer's catastrophic flooding, which killed 1,739 people, wrecked more than two million homes, and submerged as much as a third of the nation.

The Afghan Foreign Ministry, which the Taliban control, condemned attacks on worshippers as opposed to the principles of Islam, expressing sadness over the loss of several lives in Peshawar.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on a trip to the Middle East, expressed his sympathies, describing the Peshawar bombing as a "horrific attack."

"Terrorism for any reason and in any location is unjustifiable," he stated.

In addition to the Saudi Embassy in Islamabad, the US Embassy also condemned the attack, stating that "the United States stands with Pakistan in condemning all forms of terrorism."

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric reported that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres deemed the bombing particularly heinous because it targeted a place of worship.

Cash-strapped TTo avoids default, Pakistan requests an essential instalment of 1.1 billion US dollars (£888.5 million) from the International Monetary Fund as part of its 6 billion dollars (£4.9 billion) bailout package.

In recent months, discussions with the IMF on restarting the bailout have stalled.

Former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan also extended his sympathies, describing the act as a "suicide bombing by terrorists."

Mr Sharif's government came to power in April after Mr Khan was removed from office by a vote of no confidence in Parliament.

Since then, Mr Khan has campaigned for early elections, alleging that his removal was unlawful and part of a US-backed scheme, but Washington and Mr Sharif have denied his accusations.

Publish : 2023-01-31 14:49:00

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