PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — A suicide bombing at a mosque at a police and government compound in northwest Pakistan reflected a “security breach,” current and former officials said, killing Tuesday’s devastating blast. The number climbed to 100 people.
The blast hit a Sunni mosque inside a major police facility in the city of Peshawar, in one of the deadliest attacks on Pakistani security forces in recent years. It injured as many as 225 people, some of whom remained in hospital in serious condition, according to Kashif Aftab Abbasi, a senior Peshawar military officer.
More than 300 worshipers were praying at the mosque when the bomber detonated his explosive vest Monday morning, officials said, with many more approaching.
According to Zafar Khan, a police officer, the explosion blew off part of the roof and the rest soon collapsed, injuring more people. Rescuers had to clear piles of rubble to reach worshipers still trapped under the rubble.
More bodies were brought up last night and early Tuesday, with several of the seriously injured dead, according to Peshawar government hospital spokesman Mohammad Asim. “Most of them are police officers,” Asim said of the victims.
Chief Rescue Officer Bilal Faizi said rescue teams remained at the scene on Tuesday as more people were believed to be trapped inside. Mourners buried the victims in various cemeteries in the city and elsewhere.
Counter-terrorism police are investigating how the bomber arrived at the mosque, which is in a walled compound in a high-security zone with other government buildings.
“Yes, this is a security breach,” said Ghulam Ali, governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, of which Peshawar is the capital.
Abbasi, the official who provided the latest casualty toll, agreed. “There has been a security breach and the Inspector-General of Police has formed an investigative committee that will look into all aspects of the blast,” he said. “Action will be taken against those who are negligent” leading up to the attack.
Retired army general and senior security analyst Talat Masood said Monday’s suicide bombing showed “negligence”.
“When we knew the Pakistani Taliban movement was active, when we knew they were threatening attacks, there should have been more security at the Peshawar police compound,” he told The Associated Press on Tuesday, referring to a militant group that also Known as the Pakistani Taliban or TTP.
Kamran Bengash, the provincial secretary of Pakistan’s opposition Justice Movement, has called for an investigation and said Pakistan will continue to face political instability as long as the current government is in power.
“The current government of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has failed to improve the economy and security conditions, and it should resign to pave the way for early parliamentary elections,” he said.
The military media department declined an AP request for an interview with the Army chief of staff. Asim Munir, who took office last November, has yet to appear in any media.
Sharif visited a hospital in Peshawar after the bombing and vowed to take “stern action” against those behind the attack. “The scale of human tragedy is unimaginable. This is no less than the attack on Pakistan,” he tweeted.
On Tuesday, he dismissed criticism of his government and called for unity.
“Through their despicable actions, terrorists want to spread fear and paranoia among the masses and reverse our hard-won gains in the fight against terrorism and militancy,” he tweeted. “My message to all political forces is to unite against anti-Pakistan elements. We can fight our political fight later.”
Authorities have yet to determine who was behind the bombing. Shortly after the explosion, TTP commander Sarbakaf Mohmand claimed responsibility for the attack in a post on Twitter.
But hours later, TTP spokesman Mohammad Khurasani distanced the group from the bombing, saying its policy does not target mosques, seminaries and places of worship, adding that under TTP policy, participation in Those who engage in such behavior may face punitive action. His statement did not say why the TTP commander claimed responsibility for the blast.
Pakistan, which is predominantly Sunni Muslim, has seen a spike in armed attacks since the Taliban ceasefire ended in November Join government forces as the country battles unprecedented flooding It killed 1,739 people, destroyed more than 2 million homes and at one point submerged a third of the country.
The Pakistani Taliban is the main armed group in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and Peshawar is an area with frequent attacks. But ISIS in Khorasan province, a regional affiliate of the Islamic State group and a rival of the Taliban, has also been behind deadly attacks in Pakistan in recent years. Overall, since the Afghan Taliban seized power in neighboring Afghanistan in August 2021, violence has increased as U.S. and NATO troops withdraw from the country after 20 years of war.
The TTP is independent of the Afghan Taliban, but is a close ally of it. It has waged an insurgency in Pakistan for the past 15 years, seeking stricter enforcement of Islamic law, the release of its members detained by the government and a reduction in Pakistan’s presence in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region it has long used as a base. military presence.
Earlier this month, the Pakistani Taliban claimed that one of its members shot and killed two intelligence officials, including the head of the counterterrorism division of the country’s military spy agency, the ISI. The gunman was hunted down and killed in a shootout in the northwest near the border with Afghanistan, security officials said on Monday. In 2014, a Pakistani Taliban faction attacked a military academy in Peshawar, killing 154 people, mostly schoolchildren.
Afghanistan’s foreign ministry, which is controlled by the Taliban, said it was “saddened to learn of the countless deaths in Peshawar” and condemned the attack on worshipers as a violation of Islamic teachings.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who is visiting the Middle East, tweeted his condolences, calling the Peshawar bombing a “terrible attack”.
“Terrorism anywhere for any reason is untenable,” he said.
Pakistan is also wrestling with politics and economics Crisis after floods and disputed election.
The Saudi embassy in Islamabad and the US embassy also issued condemnations, saying that “the United States stands with Pakistan and condemns terrorism in all its forms”.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the bombings targeting places of worship “particularly abhorrent,” UN spokesman Stephen Dujarric said.
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan also expressed his condolences, calling the blast a “terrorist suicide attack”.
Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.