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Peshawar mosque attack: 70 dead, over 150 injured; Pak Taliban claims responsibility

Peshwar : The death toll in the Peshawar Mosque blast has risen to 70 and over 150 people were injured after a Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque packed with worshippers during afternoon prayers on Monday. The incident took place in the high-security zone in Pakistan’s restive northwestern Peshawar city and among those dead, most were police officers.

The death toll has risen to 70, officials said. Muhammad Asim Khan from Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital was quoted as saying by the news agency ANI that more than 150 people had also been wounded, while senior government official Shafiullah Khan told AFP the death toll was expected to rise even further as bodies were still being pulled from the rubble.

A report by the news agency PTI said that the bomber was affiliated with Pakistan Taliban terrorist group, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

TTP’s Umar Khalid Khurasani said the suicide attack was part of a series of retaliatory attacks to avenge the death of his brother killed in Afghanistan last year, PTI said in its report.

The powerful blast occurred inside the mosque in the Police Lines area around 1.40 pm when worshippers, which included personnel of the police, army, and bomb disposal squad – were offering the Zuhr (afternoon) prayers.

The imam of the mosque, Sahibzada Noor Ul Amin, was also killed in the blast, GeoTV reported.

Officials speaking to the news outlet said that at least 300 to 400 policemen were present in the area at the time of the blast.

Khan also said that it is apparent that there was a security lapse. A report by GeoTV cited a journalist and said that people need to cross two check posts to enter the area where the blast occurred.

A police official also told the Dawn that a portion of the building has collapsed and many were trapped under the rubble. Later, Peshawar police official Muhammad Ijaz Khan said that those trapped under the rubble were mostly cops.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the blast and said the attackers behind the blast “have nothing to do with Islam”. Sharif has also directed Pakistan Muslim League (N) workers to donate blood to save the lives of those injured.

“Terrorists want to create fear by targeting those who perform the duty of defending Pakistan,” Sharif said in his statement and added that a strategy will be adopted to strengthen the law and order situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

He, along with his interior minister Rana Sanaullah, are en route to Peshawar.

Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan condemned the attack in a tweet. “Strongly condemn the terrorist suicide attack in police lines mosque Peshawar during prayers. My prayers and condolences go to the victims’ families. It is imperative we improve our intelligence gathering and properly equip our police forces to combat the growing threat of terrorism,” Khan said in a tweet.

Peshawar was rocked by a blast of similar nature in 2022 when a suicide bomber detonated a bomb inside a Shia mosque in Kocha Risaldar area, killing 63 residents.

A resident speaking to GeoTV said that he was en route to the mosque when the explosion took place. The person said that the explosion was powerful and the area was covered with smoke immediately after the blast.

The person told GeoTV that he lost consciousness and when he regained consciousness he found that the mosque’s roof collapsed.

The eyewitness also said that among those injured, most of them were policemen. He pointed out that Zohr prayers began when the blast occurred and more than 120 people were inside at the time of the bomb blast.

Another resident also expressed his surprise while speaking to GeoTV and said that he regularly prays at the mosque and the security is always tight in the Police Lines area, as people are let in only after they present their IDs and after being frisked.

Pakistan capital Islamabad has been placed under high-alert following the blasts.