POLICE PRAYER GROUP SLAUGHTERED: Frantic search for survivors after Pakistan mosque blast kills at least 61

At least 61 people were killed and more than 100 injured by a bomb blast during afternoon prayer in Pakistan’s northwest province of Peshawar.

Key Points
  • At least 61 people have died in a mosque and more than 150 injured in a police headquarters in Peshawar, Pakistan.
  • A surviving police officer said the screams of his fellow colleagues are “echoing” in his mind.
  • Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack as the rest of the country is placed on high alert.

A moment for prayer and solace in a place of worship for hundreds of Muslims.

Seconds later, an explosion. Billowing black smoke, rubble, and buried bodies.

These were the harrowing moments recounted by a police officer after a bomb exploded during afternoon prayer in a Pakistan police compound on Monday, killing more than 60 people and injuring hundreds.

Most of those who died were police officers in the provincial city of Peshawar, close to former tribal areas along the Afghan border where militancy has been steadily rising.
People carry the body of their relative, who was a victim in the attack inside a mosque. Source: AAP / Muhammad Sajjad/AP

Shahid Ali was one of the officers in the mosque who survived the attack. He said it took place just seconds after the imam signalled the start of the prayer.

“I saw black smoke rising to the sky. I ran out to save my life,” the 47-year-old said.

“The screams of the people are still echoing in my mind.”

As darkness fell, several men were still trapped in the wreckage, visible through cracks in the concrete.

‘Many policemen are buried under the rubble’

A frantic rescue mission was continuing overnight at the mosque, which had an entire wall and some of its roof blown out by the possible suicide attack.

More bodies are being pulled from the debris, with the toll rising to 61 killed with more than 150 wounded so far.

“Many policemen are buried under the rubble,” said Peshawar police chief Muhammad Ijaz Khan, who estimated between 300 and 400 officers usually attended prayers.

“Efforts are being made to get them out safely.”

Bloodied survivors emerged limping from the wreckage, while bodies were ferried away in ambulances.

Officers said the blast came from the second row of worshippers, with investigators looking into the possibility of a suicide attack.

“It’s an emergency situation,” Muhammad Asim Khan, a spokesman for the main hospital in Peshawar said.

At least 20 of the killed police officers were later buried after a prayer ceremony with coffins lined up in rows and draped in the Pakistani flag.

Security officials gather for funeral prayers of police officers, who were killed in the bombing inside a mosque. Source: AAP / AP

“Terrorists want to create fear by targeting those who perform the duty of defending Pakistan,” said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in a statement.

The officers were laid to rest with a guard of honour, a police official told AFP.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which came amid a worsening security situation in the country.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday condemned the blast

The police headquarters in Peshawar is in one of the most tightly-controlled areas of the city, housing intelligence and counter-terrorism bureaus, and is next door to the regional secretariat.

Provinces around the country announced they were on high alert after the blast, with checkpoints ramped up and extra security forces deployed, while in the capital Islamabad snipers were deployed on buildings and at city entrance points.
Security officials inspect the site of a mosque blast inside the police headquarters in Peshawar. Source: Getty / Maaz Ali

The drastic security breach came on the day United Arab Emirates (UAE) President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan had been due to visit Islamabad, although the trip was cancelled at the last minute due to bad weather.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday condemned the blast as “abhorrent” and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken extended his condolences for the “horrific attack”.

History of violence

The security situation in Pakistan – once plagued by bombings until a major military crackdown that began in 2014 largely restored order – has deteriorated since the return of the Afghan Taliban in Kabul.

The Pakistan government has accused the new rulers of failing to secure their mountainous border, allowing militants to travel back and forth without being detected.

The biggest threat comes from a resurgent Pakistani Taliban, a separate movement from the Afghan Taliban but with a similar ideology, which has sharply increased low-casualty attacks on police and security forces.

The group has denied responsibility for the bombing.

Meanwhile, the regional chapter of the self-proclaimed Islamic State group – whose numbers were bolstered by prison breaks in Afghanistan in 2021 – claimed an attack last year on a minority Shiite mosque in Peshawar that killed 64, Pakistan’s deadliest terror attack since 2018.

Detectives said the bomber was an Afghan exile who had returned home to train for the attack.
Author: acbocc

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