Suicide bomber breaches heightened security, kills 47 at Pakistan mosque

  • Bombers break through heavily fortified Red Zone compound
  • Up to 400 worshipers pray as bomber explodes
  • most of the dead were police
  • No immediate claim of responsibility for the attack

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Jan 30 (Reuters) – A suicide bomber blew himself up inside a crowded mosque in Pakistan’s heavily fortified security compound on Monday, killing 47 people in the latest attack on Islamist militants. It is the latest attack by terrorists targeting police in the unstable country.

Police said the attackers appeared to have passed through several barricades guarded by security forces and entered the “red zone” compound that houses the police and counter-terrorism office in the restive northwestern city of Peshawar.

“It was a suicide bombing,” Peshawar police chief Ijaz Khan told Reuters. At least 47 people were killed and 176 were injured, many seriously, he said.

A day earlier, a team from the International Monetary Fund had traveled to Islamabad to launch financing talks for South Asia’s economy hit by the balance of payments crisis.

Prime Minister Sheikh Baz Sharif condemned the attack.

Officials said the bomber detonated his bomb as hundreds of people lined up to pray.

“We found traces of explosives,” Khan told reporters, adding that a security breach apparently occurred when the bomber slipped through the most secure area of ​​the compound.

It is currently being investigated how the attackers breached such elite security cordons, and whether there was any insider help.

Khan said the mosque hall was packed with as many as 400 worshipers and most of the dead were police officers.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, the worst in Peshawar since March 2022, when Islamic State killed at least 58 people in a suicide bombing at a Shiite Muslim mosque during Friday prayers. people die.

`Allah is the greatest`

Defense Minister Khawaja Asif told Geo TV that the bomber was in the first row of worshipers.

“When the prayer leader said ‘Allah is greatest’, there was a huge explosion,” Mushtaq Khan, a police officer with head injuries, told reporters from his hospital bed.

“We didn’t know what happened because the explosion was deafening. It threw me off the balcony. The walls and the roof fell on me. Thank God he saved me.”

The explosion shattered the upper floors of the mosque, trapping dozens of worshipers in the rubble. Live television footage showed rescuers making their way down through the collapsed roof and tending to rescue victims trapped in the wreckage.

“We cannot say how many people are still there,” said Governor Haji Ghulam Ali.

“The scale of human tragedy is unimaginable,” Sharif said. “This is nothing less than an attack on Pakistan. The country is overwhelmed with deep sorrow. I have no doubt that terrorism is our most important national security challenge.”

Witnesses described chaos at the scene, with police and rescue workers scrambling to get the injured to hospital.

Sharif, who called on party employees to donate blood in hospitals, said anyone targeting Muslims during prayers had nothing to do with Islam.

“The U.S. Mission in Pakistan expresses its deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims of the terrorist attack,” the embassy in Washington said in a statement.

Peshawar, which straddles the edge of Pakistan’s tribal region bordering Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, is a frequent target of Islamic militant groups including the Islamic State and the Pakistani Taliban.

Reporting by Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar and Asif Shahzad in Islamabad; Writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar and Asif Shahzad; Editing by Miral Fahmy, Simon Cameron-Moore, Bernadette Baum and Mark Heinrich

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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