(CTN NEWS) – PESHAWAR – Officials said that 93 people had died due to a suicide explosion at a mosque in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday.
One of the bloodiest strikes on Pakistani security forces in recent years was the assault on a Sunni mosque within a significant police complex.
When the bomber detonated his explosives vest on Monday morning, there were around 300 worshippers worshipping in the mosque in Peshawar and more were on their way.
The explosion tore through the mosque, killing dozens of people, wounding many more, and blowing off a portion of the roof.
After that, what was left of the roof collapsed, hurting many more people, according to police officer Zafar Khan. To reach worshippers trapped beneath the rubble, rescuers had to clear mountains of debris.
According to Mohammad Asim, a government hospital spokesman in Peshawar, more bodies were found overnight and early on Tuesday, and several critically injured died.
Of the victims, Asim noted that “most of them were cops.”
The main rescue official, Bilal Faizi, stated that rescue crews were still at the scene on Tuesday because additional individuals were reportedly stuck inside.
At various cemeteries in the city and elsewhere, mourners were burying the victims. More than 150 people were also injured in the bombing.
Uncertainty about how the bomber entered the walled compound, located in a high-security area with other government buildings, and made it to the mosque is a sign of a significant security breakdown.
The provincial governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, whose capital city is Peshawar, Ghulam Ali, stated that the probe will demonstrate “how the terrorist entered the mosque.”
“Yes, a security breach occurred,” he continued.
After the incident, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif went to a hospital in Peshawar and promised “severe punishment” against those responsible.
“The human tragedy’s sheer scope is unfathomable. This constitutes an attack on Pakistan, he tweeted. He sent his sympathies to the victim’s families, stating that their suffering “cannot be articulated in words.”
Who was responsible for the blast is still unknown to the authorities. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, often known as the Pakistani Taliban or Sarbakaf Mohmand, claimed responsibility for the attack in a tweet shortly after the blast.
Hours later, however, TTP spokesman Mohammad Khurasani dissociated the group from the attack, claiming that it was against TTP doctrine to target mosques, seminaries, and other places of worship.
He further warned that anybody who engaged in such behavior could face retaliation. He said nothing about the reason a TTP commander had taken credit for the bombing.
Since the Pakistani Taliban broke their cease-fire with government forces in November, attacks by militants have increased in Pakistan’s predominantly Sunni Muslim nation.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed earlier this month that one of its members had shot and murdered two intelligence agents, including the head of the nation’s military-based spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence’s counterterrorism division.
Security officials reported on Monday that the shooter was located and killed in a battle near the Afghan border in the northwest.
The Afghan Taliban and the TTP are independent but close allies.
For the past 15 years, it has waged an insurgency in Pakistan, calling for the stronger application of Islamic law, the release of its members who the government detains.
And a decrease in the military presence of Pakistan in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region, which it has long utilised as a base.
The main insurgent organization in the province is the Pakistani Taliban, and Peshawar has frequently been the target of strikes.
A Pakistani Taliban branch killed 154 people, mostly pupils, in an attack on an army-run school in Peshawar in 2014.
In recent years, Pakistan has also been the target of deadly strikes by the Islamic State group’s regional offshoot.
Since the Afghan Taliban took control of the neighboring nation in August 2021 and U.S. and NATO soldiers left the country after 20 years of conflict, violence has grown.
The cease-fire between the Pakistani government and the TTP expired as the nation was still dealing with the effects of the country’s record-breaking flooding last summer.
Which claimed 1,739 lives, wrecked more than 2 million homes, and at one point flooded as much as a third of it.
The Afghan Foreign Ministry, controlled by the Taliban, expressed its “sadness to learn that countless people lost their lives” in Peshawar and denounced attacks on worshippers as being against Islamic tenets.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed his sympathies and described the Peshawar explosion as a “horrific attack” while visiting the Middle East.
He declared that “terrorism for any purpose, anywhere, is inexcusable.”
Worshipers at a mosque in Peshawar endured a horrific attack today, which killed and injured many. Terrorism for any reason at any place is indefensible. I extend my deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims. https://t.co/bPvvcKdwfN
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) January 30, 2023
The Saudi and American embassies in Islamabad expressed their condemnation, with the American embassy stating that “the United States stands with Pakistan in denouncing all forms of terrorism.”
According to U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres referred to the attack as “especially heinous” because it targeted a house of worship.
Cash-strapped Pakistan is amid a dire economic crisis and has to borrow $1.1 billion from the IMF as part of a $6 billion bailout package to stay out of debt. In recent months, negotiations to revive the bailout have stalled with the IMF.
Imran Khan, a former prime minister of Pakistan, also sent his condolences and described the blast as a “terrorist suicide act.”
Khan was overthrown in a no-confidence vote in Parliament in April, ushering in Sharif’s administration.
Since then, Khan has advocated for early elections, claiming that his removal was unlawful and resulted from a plan supported by the United States. Washington and Sharif reject Khan’s assertions.
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