Suicide Bomber Kills 59, Injures Over 150 at Pakistan Mosque – NBC Los Angeles

A suicide bomber struck a crowded mosque inside a Pakistani police compound on Monday, causing the roof to collapse and killing at least 59 people and injuring more than 150, authorities said.

Most of the victims were police officers. It was not clear how the attacker was able to sneak into the walled compound, which houses the police headquarters in the northwestern city of Peshawar and is located in a high-security zone with other government buildings.

Sarbakaf Mohmand, a commander in the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter. The militant group’s top spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

“The magnitude of the human tragedy is unimaginable. This is no less than an attack on Pakistan,” tweeted Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who visited the wounded in Peshawar and promised “severe measures” against those responsible for the attack. He expressed condolences to him. to the families of the victims, saying that their pain “cannot be described in words”.

Pakistan, which is majority Sunni Muslim, has seen a rise in militant attacks since November, when the Pakistani Taliban ended its ceasefire with government forces.

Earlier this month, in another attack claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, a gunman shot and killed two intelligence officers, including the director of the anti-terror wing of the country’s army-based spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence. . Security officials said Monday the attacker was tracked down and killed in a gunfight in the northwest, near the Afghan border.

Monday’s assault on a Sunni mosque inside a police compound was one of the deadliest attacks on security forces in recent years.

The militant group, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, is a separate but close ally of the Afghan Taliban. The TTP has carried out an insurgency in Pakistan for the past 15 years, seeking stricter enforcement of Islamic laws, the release of its members from government custody, and a reduction in the Pakistani military presence in areas of Khyber province. Pakhtunkhwa which he has long used as a base. .

More than 300 worshipers were praying in the mosque, and were getting closer, when the attacker detonated his explosive vest. Many were injured when the roof collapsed, according to Zafar Khan, a police officer, and rescuers had to remove piles of rubble to reach worshipers still trapped under the rubble.

Meena Gul, who was at the mosque when the bomb went off, said she doesn’t know how he survived unharmed. The 38-year-old police officer said he heard screaming and shouting after the explosion.

Mohammad Asim, spokesman for the main government hospital in Peshawar, put the death toll at 59, with another 157 injured. Police officer Siddique Khan, the attacker, blew himself up while he was among the worshipers.

Senior police and government officials attended the funerals of 30 policemen and arrangements were being made to bury the rest. The coffins were draped with the Pakistani flag and their bodies were later handed over to relatives for burial.

Peshawar is the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the Pakistani Taliban have a strong presence, and the city has been the scene of frequent militant attacks.

The Afghan Taliban seized power in neighboring Afghanistan in August 2021 as US and NATO troops withdrew from the country after 20 years of war.

The Pakistani government’s truce with the TTP ended as the country was still facing unprecedented flooding that killed 1,739 people, destroyed more than 2 million homes and at one point submerged up to a third of the country.

Mohmand, from the militant organization, said a fighter carried out the attack to avenge the killing of Abdul Wali, known as Omar Khalid Khurasani, who was killed in the neighboring Afghan province of Paktika in August 2022.

The Afghan Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it was “saddened to learn that many people lost their lives and many others were injured by an explosion at a mosque in Peshawar” and condemned the attacks on worshipers as contrary to the teachings of the Islam.

Condemnations also came from the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Islamabad, as well as the US Embassy, ​​adding that “the United States stands with Pakistan in condemning all forms of terrorism.”

Cash-strapped Pakistan is facing a severe economic crisis and is seeking a crucial $1.1bn quota from the International Monetary Fund, part of its $6bn bailout package, to avoid default. Talks with the IMF about reviving the bailout have stalled in recent months.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan called the attack a “terrorist suicide attack.” He tweeted: “My prayers and condolences go out to the families of the victims. It is imperative that we improve our intelligence collection and properly equip our police forces to combat the growing threat of terrorism.”

Sharif’s government came to power in April after Khan was ousted in a vote of no confidence in parliament. Since then, Khan has campaigned for early elections, claiming his ouster was illegal and part of a US-backed plot. Washington and Sharif dismiss Khan’s claims.


Associated Press journalist Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed.