Peshawar: At least 32 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a crowded mosque in Pakistan’s Peshawar on Monday, the latest attack targeting police in the northwestern city where Islamist militants remain active.
Hospital officials said at least 147 people were injured, many of them in critical condition. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif described the blast as a suicide attack. Police officer Sikandar Khan said that there were at least 260 people in the mosque.
No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing, which ripped through the mosque during noon prayers, causing a wall to collapse on top of worshippers. The building is located inside a highly fortified compound that includes the headquarters of the provincial police force and a counter-terrorism department.
“We’re getting that the terrorist was standing in the first row,” Defense Minister Khawaja Asif told Geo TV.
Footage from state broadcaster PTV showed police and residents scrambling to clear debris from the blast site and carry wounded people on their shoulders. The attack was the city’s worst since March last year when a suicide bombing at a Shi’ite Muslim mosque during Friday prayers killed at least 58 people and injured nearly 200. Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for that bombing.
Peshwar, which sits at the edge of Pakistan’s tribal districts bordering Afghanistan, is frequently targeted by militant groups, including the Pakistani Taliban.
The group known as Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is a conglomeration of Sunni and sectarian Islamist groups that seek to overthrow the government and replace it with their brand of Islamic rule. The TTP has stepped up attacks since concluding a so-called peace deal with the Pakistani government last year, which was aided by the Afghan Taliban.
The TTP has carried out frequent attacks targeting the police in the last few months. In December, Islamist militants seized a counter-terrorist center in the northwest and took hostages to negotiate with government officials.