Pakistan mosque suicide bomber kills 59, wounds over 150

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) – A suicide bomber tore through a crowded mosque inside a police station in Pakistan on Monday, collapsing the roof and killing at least 59 people and injuring more than 150, officials said. responsibility.

Most of those killed were police officers. It is not clear how the bomber managed to get into the walled compound, which is home to police headquarters in the northwestern city of Peshawar and is in a well-secured area with government buildings. different.

Pakistani Taliban commander Sarbakaf Mohmand claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter. A spokesman for the militant group was not immediately available for comment.

“The magnitude of the human tragedy is incomprehensible. This is nothing less than an attack on Pakistan,” tweeted Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who visited the injured in Peshawar and vowed “tough action” against those behind the bombings. He expressed his condolences to the families of the victims, saying that “their pain cannot be described in words”.

Pakistan, which is majority Sunni Muslim, has seen a surge in violent attacks since November, when the Pakistani Taliban ended a ceasefire with government forces.

Earlier this month, in another attack claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, a gunman shot and killed two officers, including the director of the country’s intelligence agency’s counter-terrorism wing. of Inter-Services Intelligence countries. Security officials said the gunman was tracked down and killed in a shootout in the northwest near the Afghan border on Monday.

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Monday’s attack on a Sunni mosque at a police station was one of the deadliest attacks on security forces in recent years.

The militant group, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, is split from close allies of the Afghan Taliban. The TTP has been waging an insurgency in Pakistan for the past 15 years, seeking stricter implementation of Islamic law, the release of government members and a reduction in Pakistani military presence in parts of the province. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which they have been using for a long time as a camp. .

More than 300 worshipers were praying in the mosque, and came closer, when they took off their clothes from the bomb. Many were injured when the roof collapsed, according to Zafar Khan, a police officer, and rescuers had to clear debris to reach worshipers still trapped under the rubble.

Meena Gul, who was in the mosque when the bomb went off, said she did not know how he could have died unharmed. The 38-year-old policeman said he heard shouting and screaming after the explosion.

Mohammad Asim, a spokesman for Peshawar’s main hospital, put the death toll at 59, with 157 others injured. Siddique Khan, a police official, blew himself up among the worshippers.

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Senior police officers and government officials attended the funeral of 30 police officers and arrangements have been made for the rest. The coffin was wrapped in the Pakistani flag and handed over to his relatives for burial.

Peshawar is the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the Pakistani Taliban has a strong presence, and the city has been the scene of frequent violent attacks.

The Afghan Taliban seized power in neighboring Afghanistan in August 2021 after US and NATO forces withdrew from the country after a 20-year war.

The Pakistani government’s negotiations with the TTP have ended as the country continues to grapple with unprecedented floods that have killed 1,739 people, destroyed more than 2 million homes, and at one point submerged up to a third of the country.

Mohmand, of the militant group, said a fighter carried out the attack to avenge the killing of Abdul Wali, known as Omar Khalid Khurasani, who was killed in the province. neighboring Paktika Afghanistan in August 2022.

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it was “saddened to learn that many people have lost their lives and many others have been injured in an explosion at a mosque in Peshawar” and condemned the attack on worshipers as counter-terrorism. in the teachings of Islam.

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Condemnation also came from the Saudi Embassy in Islamabad, as well as the US Embassy, ​​adding that “The United States stands with Pakistan in condemning all forms of terrorism.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the bombing “abhorrent” for targeting places of worship, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Cash-strapped Pakistan is facing a severe economic crisis and seeking $1.1 billion from the International Monetary Fund – part of a $6 billion bailout package – to avoid default. Talks with the IMF on reimbursing the allowance have stalled in recent months.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan called the bombing a “terrorist suicide attack”. He tweeted: “My prayers and condolences go out to the affected families. It is essential to improve the collection of information and to properly equip the police to combat the growing threat of terrorism. “

Sharif’s government came to power in April after Khan was ousted in a vote of no confidence in Parliament. Khan campaigned for early elections, saying his ouster was illegal and part of a US-backed plot. Washington and Sharif denied Khan’s claims.


Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed.


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