Crime & Justice

Death toll in Pakistan mosque bombing rises to 59

By Amjad Ali

Islamabad, Jan 31 (EFE).- Authorities on Tuesday raised the death toll to 59 in the suicide bombing of a crowded mosque filled mainly with police officers in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar.

The attack killed at least 59 people and wounded 157, most of them police and other members of the security forces, and was one of the worst strikes ever staged on law enforcement authorities in Pakistan’s history.

The latest figure for the number of victims was confirmed by the spokesman for the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, Asim Khan, in remarks to Pakistan’s DAWN media outlet.

The hospital has been forced to issue a call for blood donations to treat the dozens of victims of the attack.

The suicide bombing occurred about midday on Monday at a mosque in Police Lines, a residential and training center for police officers, and this explains the high number of victims who are police officers, Peshawar district administration chief Riaz Mehsud told EFE.

Mehsud said outsiders were not allowed inside the enclave, adding that “all the deceased could be policemen.”

Hundreds of worshipers were offering afternoon prayers when the bomb shattered the roof and brought down the walls of the mosque in the police residential and training enclave.

City police chief Muhammad Ijaz Khan told reporters outside the damaged mosque that some of the injured were still trapped under the debris as the rescue operation continued late into the evening.

Peshawar police officer Behzaad Khan told EFE that more than 300 worshipers were praying in the mosque when the suicide bomber detonated the explosive device.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in the capital of the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan.

Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said the bomber was in the first row of the worshipers.

“We are in a state of war again,” said Asif in an interview with Pakistan’s GEO TV. “It is time for us to fight the war against terrorism again.”

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif strongly condemned the carnage, saying in a statement that “The brutal killing of Muslims praying before Allah is against the teachings of the Quran.”

Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant attacks since the Taliban seized power in neighboring Afghanistan.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or the Pakistani Taliban, ended a ceasefire with the government in November last year after talks between the two failed.

The TTP is a separate insurgent movement from the Taliban in Afghanistan but shares its ideology with the Afghan group.

The last attack against a religious site in Pakistan took place in Peshawar in March 2022, when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a mosque where the members of the country’s Shiite minority were praying, killing 56 people and wounding almost 200.

In addition to the TTP, the Islamic State jihadist group has also conducted attacks in Pakistan, one of the worst in 2018 against a rally in Balochistan which killed 128 people and wounded 122.

The attacks began to decline in frequency in 2014 after Pakistani authorities launched an offensive against the insurgent groups, but in recent years there has been a resurgence in violence that has been harming relations between Islamabad and Kabul, where the Taliban retook power after the US pullout in August 2021.

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