(Update 1: updates casualties, adds details, changes headline)
Islamabad, Mar 4 (EFE).- Pakistani authorities have raised the death toll to 56 after an attack against a mosque of the minority Shia community during Friday prayers in the northwestern city of Peshawar, while nearly 200 people have been injured.
“So far 56 people have died and 194 are injured. The attack happened at 1:07 pm at the time of Friday prayer,” Ahsen Khan, a police official at the Peshawar police headquarters, told EFE
He added that the the explosion was carried out through a suicide bombing, as one of the assailants detonated explosives he was carrying inside the mosque.
“One attacker and one policeman were killed in the exchange of fire (outside) while the second terrorist managed to enter the mosque. First he shot some bullets on the people there too and then blew himself up,” Khan said.
The explosion damaged the interior parts of the mosque, with windowpanes getting shattered, while the debris were also strewn outside.
Outside the hospital where the victims have been admitted, dozens of people held a protest against the attack.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the attack and ordered efforts to provide immediate medical aid for the injured, apart from seeking a report from the authorities concerned.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid alleged that “people want to destabilize this country under a planned conspiracy,” while the Australian cricket team is on a tour of the country.
“Some foreign forces are trying to ruin the peace in Pakistan,” he claimed.
Pakistan’s Shia community has been repeatedly targeted in violence and terrorist attacks, with over 2,500 deaths recorded since 2001 according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, although the frequency of these attacks has gone down in recent years.
A deadly attack took place in 2019, when at least 20 people were killed and 40 injured – with most of the victims being members of the Shia Hazara community – in a bombing in southwestern Pakistan, carried out by hiding explosives inside a sack of potatoes.
This attack was claimed by the Islamic State terror group, which considers Shias as apostates.
In August 2021, at least three people were killed and 50 others injured in an attack against a Shia procession during the Islamic month of Muharram in eastern Pakistan.
Terrorism-related violence has reduced significantly in Pakistan after the military launched an operation in the tribal areas of the Northwest in June 2014, which was later extended to the rest of the country. EFE