Peshawar bomb blast: Suicide bomber kills 56 at Shiite mosque in Pakistan | world news

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PESHAWAR: A suicide bomber struck inside a Shia Muslim mosque in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar during Friday prayers, killing at least 56 worshipers and injuring 194 people, officials said of the hospital.
No terrorist group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. The Islamic State group and the Pakistani Taliban – a separate terror group from the Taliban in Afghanistan – have carried out similar attacks in the past in the area, located near the border with neighboring Afghanistan.
According to spokesman for Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, Asim Khan, many of the injured were in critical condition. Dozens of victims were riddled with shrapnel, several had their limbs amputated and others were injured by flying debris.
Peshawar Police Chief Muhammed Ejaz Khan said the violence began when an armed assailant opened fire on police outside the mosque in Peshawar’s old town. A policeman was killed in the shooting and another policeman was injured. The attacker then ran inside the mosque and detonated his suicide vest.
Local police chief Waheed Khan said the blast occurred as worshipers gathered at Kucha Risaldar Mosque for Friday prayers. The death toll is feared to rise further, he added.
Ambulances rushed through the congested narrow streets to transport the injured to Lady Reading Hospital, where medics were working feverishly.
Shayan Haider, a witness, was about to enter the mosque when a powerful explosion knocked him to the ground. “I opened my eyes and there was dust and bodies everywhere,” he said.
In the emergency department at Lady Reading Hospital, it was chaos as medics struggled to move the many injured to the operating theatres. Hundreds of relatives gathered outside the emergency department, many of them moaning and beating their chests, begging for information about loved ones.
Outside the mosque, Shiites thronged the cordoned off streets. The Kucha Risaldar Mosque is one of the oldest in the region, predating the establishment of Pakistan in 1947 as a separate homeland for Muslims from the Indian subcontinent.
The prayer leader, Allama Irshad Hussein Khalil, an aspiring young Shiite leader, was among the dead. Throughout the city, ambulance sirens could be heard.
Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the attack.
Retired army officer Sher Ali who was inside the mosque at the time of the blast was injured by shrapnel. He made an impassioned plea to the Pakistani government for better protection of the country’s Shia minority.
“What is our sin? What have we done ? Aren’t we citizens of this country? he said from the emergency department, his white clothes splattered with blood.
In predominantly Sunni Pakistan, the Shia minority is the target of repeated attacks.
In recent months, Pakistan has seen a sharp increase in violence. Dozens of servicemen have been killed in dozens of attacks on army outposts along the border with Afghanistan.
Many of the attacks were claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, which analysts say was emboldened by the Afghan Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan last August.
Pakistan has urged the new Afghan leadership to hand over the Pakistani Taliban militants who staged their attacks from Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban have said their territory will not be used to stage attacks on anyone, but so far they have not handed over any wanted Pakistani terrorists.
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