Suicide bomber breaches high security in Pakistan mosque, kills 59

  • 400 worshipers were present at the time of the explosion.
  • Most of the dead were policemen.
  • There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Jan 30 (Reuters) – A suicide bomber blew himself up inside a crowded mosque in a heavily guarded compound in Pakistan on Monday, killing 59 people, after targeting police. It is the latest attack by Islamist militants.

The attacker went through several barriers manned by security forces to enter the “red zone” compound that houses police and counter-terrorism offices in the northwestern city of Peshawar, police said.

“It was a suicide blast,” Peshawar police chief Ejaz Khan told Reuters. He said that many of the 170 injured are in critical condition.

Hospital official Muhammad Asim said in a statement that the death toll has reached 59 while several people succumbed to their injuries.

The bombing came a day before an International Monetary Fund mission arrived in Islamabad to begin talks on opening up funds for the South Asian country’s economy, which is suffering from a balance of payments crisis.

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Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has condemned the attack.

Officials said the bomber detonated as hundreds of people lined up to pray.

“We have found traces of explosives,” Khan told reporters, adding that there was an apparent security lapse as the bomber slipped through the highly secured area of ​​the compound.

Inquiries were on as to how the assailant breached such an elite security cordon and whether there was any inside help.

Khan said the mosque hall was packed with 400 worshippers, and most of the dead were policemen.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which was the worst in Peshawar since March 2022, when an Islamic State suicide bomber killed at least 58 people at a Shiite mosque during Friday prayers. happened

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Peshawar, which borders Taliban-controlled Afghanistan on the edge of Pakistan’s tribal districts, is often targeted by Islamist militant groups, including the Islamic State and the Pakistani Taliban.

”Allah is the greatest”

Defense Minister Khawaja Asif told Geo TV that the bomber was standing in the first row of worshippers.

“As soon as the worshiper said ‘Allah is the greatest’, there was a big explosion,” Mushtaq Khan, a policeman with a head wound, told reporters from his hospital bed.

“We couldn’t figure out what happened because the sound of the explosion was deafening. It threw me off the balcony. The walls and the roof collapsed on me. Thank God, he saved me.”

The explosion brought down the upper floor of the mosque, dozens of worshipers were buried in the rubble. Live TV footage showed rescue workers cutting through the collapsed roof and moving towards victims trapped in the rubble.

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“We cannot say how many people are still under its influence,” provincial governor Haji Ghulam Ali said.

“The sheer scale of the human tragedy is unimaginable,” Sharif said. “This is nothing less than an attack on Pakistan. The nation is overwhelmed with a deep sense of grief. I have no doubt that terrorism is the biggest challenge to our national security.”

Witnesses described scenes of chaos as police and rescue workers rushed to take the injured to hospital.

Sharif, who appealed to his party workers to donate blood to hospitals, said the attack on Muslims during prayers had nothing to do with Islam.

Reporting by Jibran Ahmed in Peshawar and Asif Shahzad in Islamabad; Written by Shilpa Jamkhandikar and Asif Shahzad; Edited by Bernadette Baum, Mark Heinrich and Grant McCool

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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