Peshawar (Pakistan): In a tragic incident, at least 56 people died and 200 others were injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowded Shia mosque during Friday congregation in Peshawar, in the north -western Pakistan. This is one of the deadliest attacks in this restless province, bordering Afghanistan.
The blast took place at an Imambargah near the Qissa Khwani bazaar area in Peshawar as worshipers offered Friday prayers. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the explosion in Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa which borders Afghanistan. However, Islamic State and sectarian militant groups have claimed responsibility for deadly attacks targeting Shias in the past.
Mohammad Asim, spokesman for Lady Reading Hospital (LRH), confirmed that at least 56 people were killed and 194 injured in the blast. An eyewitness identified a person dressed in black as the suicide bomber, saying he entered the mosque, first shot and killed the security guard, then fired five to six bullets. “After that, he quickly entered the [mosque’s] main hall and blows himself up in front of the pulpit. Following this, there were bodies and injuries everywhere,” the witness told Geo News.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government spokesman, lawyer Mohammad Ali Saif, said two terrorists were involved in the suicide bombing.
Speaking to the media, Haroon Rasheed Khan, Peshawar SSP Operations, said the blast was a suicide bombing. There were two assailants, but only one was a suicide bomber, he said. Inspector General of Police Moazzam Jah Ansari, the terrorist, first opened fire on worshipers after entering the mosque and then blew himself up, PTI reported.
Ansari said around five to six kilograms of explosives were used in the explosion, which took place in the third row of the mosque. An emergency was declared at the hospital and off-duty doctors were summoned. Officials said the condition of some of the injured was considered critical. The capital’s police officer, Peshawar Ijaz Ahsan, said two assailants tried to enter the mosque and fired at the officers standing guard. One policeman was killed while the other was seriously injured, he said. The explosion happened after the shooting incident, he added.
President Arif Alvi condemned the explosion and expressed his sorrow for the precious lives lost. Prime Minister Imran Khan strongly condemned the blast and ordered authorities to provide medical treatment to the injured. He also requested an investigation report from the authorities concerned. Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has requested a report on the incident from the chief secretary and the province’s IG.
“No threat alerts were received, we had a meeting a few days ago but no threats were received, we had no information about it,” the interior minister said. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan condemned the blast and pledged to bring the perpetrators of this heinous act to justice. He said targeting people in a place of worship is an inhumane and cruel act and ordered authorities to ensure the best medical care for the injured. He called an emergency meeting at the chief minister’s house to review the overall security situation in the province, which borders Afghanistan.
“Heartbreaking terrorist incident in Peshawar in which so many precious lives were lost. Words cannot adequately condemn the sheer brutality. Terrorism continues to be our greatest national challenge. Prayers and condolences go out to the bereaved families!” PML-N Chairman and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Shehbaz Sharif, tweeted.
Also read: A look at major attacks in Pakistan over the past 6 months
Former President Asif Ali Zardari said the attack would not have happened if “the nurseries of terrorism had been destroyed”. Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also condemned the Peshawar terror incident in a separate statement, saying the terrorists attacked humanity by targeting innocent worshippers.
(With PTI inputs)