Rescuers search for survivors of Pakistan mosque blast, as death toll rises to 90
The death toll from a suicide bombing at a mosque in Peshawar in northwest Pakistan has risen to 90, as rescuers search for people believed to be still trapped in rubble.
Key points: Rescue workers had to remove piles of debris to reach worshipers still trapped under the debris. It was not clear how the bomber slipped into the high-security zone and reached the mosque. behind the attack
Distraught relatives thronged hospitals to search for their loved ones a day after the bombing, which killed more than 90 people, mostly policemen.
The attack, on a Sunni mosque in a major police facility, was one of the deadliest attacks on Pakistani security forces in recent years.
More than 300 worshipers were praying in the mosque, with more approaching, when the bomber released his explosives vest on Monday morning local time.
The blast ripped through the mosque, killing and injuring scores, and also blew off part of the roof.
What was left of the roof then collapsed, injuring many more, according to police officer Zafar Khan. Rescue workers had to remove piles of rubble to reach worshipers still trapped under the rubble.
Riaz Mahsud, a senior local government official, said the casualty toll was likely to rise as workers searched through the rubble.
“We have cut three main beams of the building and efforts are on to cut the remaining one,” he said.
Live video footage showed people rushing to hospitals to identify the dead and tend to the wounded.
More bodies were retrieved overnight and early Tuesday, hospital spokesman Mohammad Asim said, and several critically injured people died.
“Most of them were policemen,” Mr Asim said of the victims.
It was not clear how the bomber managed to slip into the walled compound in a high-security zone. (AP: Zubair Khan)
Chief rescue officer Bilal Faizi said crews were still working at the site on Tuesday, with more people believed to be trapped inside.
Mourners buried the victims at different cemeteries in the city and elsewhere. The bombing also wounded more than 150 people.
It was not clear how the bomber was able to slip into the walled compound, in a high-security zone along with other government buildings, and reach the mosque – an indication of a major security lapse.
The investigation will show “how the terrorist entered the mosque,” said Ghulam Ali, the provincial governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where Peshawar is the capital.
“Yes, it was a security lapse,” he added.
Authorities are trying to identify perpetrators
During a visit to a hospital in Peshawar after the bombing, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif promised “stern action” against those behind the attack.
“The sheer scale of the human tragedy is unimaginable. This is nothing less than an attack on Pakistan,” he tweeted.
Pakistan, which is mostly Sunni Muslim, has seen an increase in militant attacks since November. (AP: Pakistan Police Department)
He expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and said their pain “cannot be described in words”.
Authorities have not determined who carried out the bombing.
Shortly after the blast, Sarbakaf Mohmand, a commander of the Pakistani Taliban – also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP – claimed responsibility in a post on Twitter.
But hours later, TTP spokesman Mohammad Khurasani distanced the group from the bombing, saying it was not its policy to target mosques, seminaries and religious places, adding that those who engage in such acts face punitive action under TTP’s policy in the face can stare.
His statement did not address why a TTP commander claimed responsibility for the bombing.
Pakistan, which is mostly Sunni Muslim, has seen a surge in militant attacks since November, when the Pakistani Taliban ended their ceasefire with government forces.
The TTP is separate from, but a close ally of, the Afghan Taliban.
It has waged an insurgency in Pakistan for the past 15 years, seeking stricter enforcement of Islamic law, the release of its members in government custody and a reduction in Pakistani military presence in areas of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province it has long held as a base. used.
The Pakistani Taliban is the dominant militant group in the province, and Peshawar has been the scene of frequent attacks.
In 2014, a Pakistani Taliban faction attacked an army-run school in Peshawar, killing 154, mostly schoolchildren.
Overall, violence has increased since the Afghan Taliban seized power in neighboring Afghanistan in August 2021, when US and NATO troops pulled out of the country after 20 years of war.
US, Saudi Arabia condemn attack
The Taliban-controlled Afghan foreign ministry said it was “sad to hear that scores of people have lost their lives” in Peshawar and condemned attacks on worshipers as contrary to the teachings of Islam.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is on a visit to the Middle East, tweeted his condolences and said the Peshawar bombing was a “horrific attack”.
“Terrorism for any reason anywhere is indefensible,” he said.
Condemnations also came from the Saudi embassy in Islamabad, as well as the US embassy, which said the “United States stands with Pakistan in condemning all forms of terrorism”.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the bombing “particularly heinous” because it targeted a place of worship, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to search, up and down arrows for volume. Watch Duration: 6 minutes 33 seconds6m ‘Unpredictability’ in the region after suicide bombing in Pakistan.