Suicide bomber kills 44 worshipers in crowded Pakistani mosque
Islamabad, Jan 30 (EFE).- At least 44 people, mostly police officers, were killed and more than 150 wounded in a suicide bombing inside a crowded mosque in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Monday, officials said.
Lady Reading Hospital spokesperson Asim Khan told EFE they received 44 bodies, mostly of policemen. “We are compiling the list of the deceased.”
Hundreds of worshipers were offering afternoon prayers when the bomb shattered the roof and brought down the walls of the mosque in an enclave housing a police training center and residential complexes.
Peshawar district administration head Riaz Mehsud said outsiders were not allowed inside the enclave, and as such and “all the deceased could be policemen.”
City police chief Muhammad Ijaz Khan told reporters outside the damaged mosque that some injured were still 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. “It is time for us to fight the war against terrorism again.”
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif strongly condemned the carnage.
“The brutal killing of Muslims praying before Allah is against the teachings of the Quran,” Sharif said in a statement.
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 namesake.
The Pakistani government has been claiming TTP leadership is hiding in Afghanistan.
The government recently issued a high alert and beefed up security, especially in the capital Islamabad where a suicide blast killed three people, including a policeman, in December.
The outlawed Islamist group has increased its activities, mainly in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Pakistan is also battling a separatist insurgency in the research-rich southern Balochistan province.
As the suicide bombing in Peshawar heightened security concerns, the government said it delayed the visit of United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Islamabad on Monday due to “weather conditions.”
The Arab ruler was to pay an official visit “to discuss the friendship and cooperation relations between the UAE and Pakistan.” EFE