The death toll from a suicide bombing at a mosque in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, which specifically targeted police officers, has risen to 100. Attempts are being made to determine how the bomber was able to enter the mosque despite its location in a restricted area. Many more people were injured in the attack, making it one of the deadliest in Pakistan in recent memory.
Later, the militant Pakistani Taliban denied responsibility for the bombing, laying the blame on a breakaway group. Many people do not believe the Taliban’s claims that they are only fighting the security forces and not the Pakistani people, so they have avoided taking credit for some attacks on mosques, schools, and markets.
On Tuesday, rescuers worked desperately to extricate worshippers buried beneath the debris, and they succeeded in doing so for nine people. According to local authorities, there was no one left trapped. “Terrorists want to create fear by targeting those who perform the duty to defend Pakistan,” said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. There will be a day of national mourning because of it.
Every few minutes, the BBC spotted an ambulance rushing into and out of the compound. At least fifty people are still hurt, and their conditions range from stable to life-threatening. At the same time, more than 20 police officers have been laid to rest, with the Pakistani flag draped over their coffins. Members of the security forces made up the bulk of the fatalities. The funeral for Irfan Ullah, a police inspector who died in the blast, drew a large crowd. He had narrowly avoided death in yet another attack just days before, this time an ambush in which several of his fellow soldiers had been slaughtered.
Prayers were protected by armed guards. Many people in the audience were moved to tears. Mr. Ullah’s family consisted of his wife and five kids. Muhammed Zahid, his brother, spoke at his funeral about the grief the death had caused the family.
We started calling him as soon as we heard there had been an explosion, Muhammed told our team. “The sound of the ringing phone gave us temporary hope. We inquired about him, but the police said he had been killed. I counted his as the fourth dead body I came across.”
“He had a warm personality and was always willing to lend a hand. In addition to his bravery, he had no fear of anything. We would warn him, but he would always say, “No, it’s my duty.” We are devastated by this news.” Police chief of Peshawar, Muhammad Ijaz Khan, had previously told local media that there were between 300 and 400 officers present.
The police headquarters, as well as intelligence and counter-terrorism offices, are located in the same neighbourhood as the mosque, making it one of the most secure areas of the city. The local media flocked to the area on Tuesday, lining the road outside the gates. The perpetrators of the attack, Mr. Sharif said, had “nothing to do with Islam.” The entire country is united against the threat of terrorism, he continued.
Since the end of a ceasefire by the Pakistani Taliban in November, violence has increased across the country. Though distinct from the Afghan Taliban, it adheres to the same strict Islamist ideology. Since the Taliban signed a peace deal with the United States in 2021 and subsequently took power in Afghanistan, militant activity in Pakistan has increased.
Since the truce was broken, there have been multiple attacks on Pakistani police and security forces. As in Peshawar, in the northwest, bordering Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban attacked a police station in December, resulting in the deaths of 33 militants, according to official reports. During afternoon prayers on Monday, a bomb went off in a mosque at around 13:30 (08:30 GMT). The mosque was littered with broken bricks and other debris as people scrambled to escape the building after an entire wall had collapsed. Officer Irfan Ullah, whose funeral drew a large crowd, was married with five kids.
It is particularly abhorrent that such an attack occurred at a place of worship,” the spokesperson for UN Secretary General António Guterres said in condemnation of the attack. The mosque was attacked on the first day of a pivotal diplomatic week for Pakistan. Bad weather forced the cancellation of President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s planned visit to Islamabad on Monday.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is sending a delegation to Pakistan on Tuesday as part of the procedure to release a bailout loan. Another bombing in Peshawar last March killed dozens of people at a Shia mosque in a predominantly Sunni country. Police in the nation’s capital, Islamabad, have issued a red alert and reported heightened security measures.