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.
- 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.
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.”
‘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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
History of violence