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At least 44 martyred, 157 injured in mosque suicide attack as terror revisits Peshawar

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  • Security officials say suicide attacker was present in front row during prayers when he exploded himself.
  • Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital appeals citizens to donate blood.
  • Authorities busy in rescue operation.

PESHAWAR: A powerful suicide blast inside a mosque in Peshawar’s Police Lines area on Monday martyred 44 people while 157 others were injured, officials told Geo News.

According to security officials, the suicide attacker was present in the front row during the Zuhr prayer when he exploded himself, injuring dozens of faithful.

The outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had taken responsibility for the attack.

Sahibzada Noor Ul Amin, Imam of the mosque, was also martyred in the blast, police said.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has reached Peshawar where he is briefed on all aspects about the blast.

PM Shehbaz will also visit the injured. He will be accompanied by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah.

According to rescue spokesperson Bilal Faizi, five to six people are still trapped under the rubble while one has been recovered.

“The operation is being conducted slowly. No risk is being taken. We have to save human lives, no matter if it takes time,” he said while informing about the entire rescue personnel present at the site.

He added that their first priority is to save human lives. “At this time, we have heavy machinery [for search operation]. There is hope that we will complete the rescue operation soon.”

The spokesperson said that “workers are being careful” while rescuing those suffering from injuries, particularly on the head. “We don’t want anyone to die because of us. We can also communicate through a camera.

The injured were shifted to the Lady Reading Hospital of Peshawar. The hospital has appealed citizens to donate blood for the victims.

Capital City Police Officer, Peshawar (CCPO) Ejaz Khan, while talking to media, said that it was too early to say anything as many policemen are still trapped under the rubble.

“We are currently focused on the rescue operation. We cannot say with surety but there is a smell of explosives inside the mosque,” said the CCPO. He added that headquarters of the Peshawar Police, Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD), Frontier Reserve Police (FRP), Elite Force and telecommunications department are also located near the blast site.

A police officer guides an ambulance after a suicide blast in a mosque, at police line area in Peshawar, Pakistan January 30, 2023. — Reuters
A police officer guides an ambulance after a suicide blast in a mosque, at police line area in Peshawar, Pakistan January 30, 2023. — Reuters

“Close to 300-400 policemen usually offer prayers at the Zuhr time. If a blast has taken place inside police lines then it is a security lapse but an investigation into the matter can reveal further,” said the CCPO. 

Medical emergency declared 

Caretaker Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Muhammad Azam Khan imposed a medical emergency in all hospitals of Peshawar. The interim CM also instructed rescue organisations to speed up relief activities.

The CM has ordered to ensure immediate measures to transfer the injured to the hospital, directing the concerned authorities to provide timely medical assistance to the injured who are being shifted to hospitals.

Meanwhile, the provincial health department had announced a “medical emergency” in the city in the wake of the Police Lines Peshawar bomb blast.

“All the doctors and support staff in the government health facilities including MTIs in district Peshawar are directed to remain on red alert to cope with the emergencies, till further orders,” the notification issued in this regard.

Eyewitness account

An eyewitness told the media that he was going to the mosque when the explosion took place.

“It was a powerful explosion. There was smoke everywhere after the blast,” said the eyewitness. He added that after gaining consciousness he saw the mosque’s roof collapsed.

“There were at least 120 people in the mosque when the incident took place. It was a suicide blast because the bomber was inside the mosque’s inner courtyard. The Zuhr prayers had just started when it happened. There were mostly policemen among the injured,” said the eyewitness.

President of the Civil Secretariat Association Peshawar Tassavur Iqbal, who regularly prays at the mosque, said that the Police Lines area’s security is always high and no one can enter without showing their identity and body search. 

“This is an unfortunate incident that took place here today. This is a big mosque and 400-500 people can offer prayers at a time. We are hearing that the building collapsed after the blast,” said Iqbal.  

‘Bomber crossed two police checkposts’

Journalist Qaiser explained that the Police Lines is located in Peshawar Cantt’s most sensitive area where a large number of law enforcement and FC personnel are present round the clock. 

“The offices of KP’s Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) and police investigation department are situated here. Usually, 1,000 police personnel are present at the police headquarters,” he added. 

The journalist said that in order to go inside the area one has to stop at two police checkposts. 

“The bomber was able to sneak inside after passing through checking three times,” said the journalist. 

Condemnations pour in

Pakistan President Dr Arif Alvi deemed the attack “heinous and cowardly”. In his tweet, he wrote about finding and punishing the perpetrators.

PM Shehbaz strongly condemned the blast, adding that the blast inside a mosque proves that those involved in the attack have “nothing to do with Islam.”

“These terrorists are trying to instil fear by targeting those who perform the duty of defending Pakistan,” he said, assuring the people that the coalition government will take strict action against those involved.

Speaking to Geo News, Khawaja Asif revealed that the roof fell due to the intensity of blast, adding that the hospitals have been overwhelmed.

He said that the police have been targeted, emphasising that the machinery that controlled terrorism before needs to be activated again.

Asif assured the people that the law and order situation in KP will be restored as measures are being taken.

The defence minister said that even though they receive threats, people cannot be stopped from entering a mosque.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, condemning the incident, said that strict action will be taken against the terrorists, their backers and facilitators.

Terror incidents before general and by-elections are “meaningful”, he added.

Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that suicide attack was the “worst form” of terrorism.

“The aim of such brutal and cowardly attacks is to weaken the nation’s resolve against terrorism, but this resolve will be strengthened by every drop of blood and martyrdom,” said the minister. 

PTI Chairman Imran Khan also took to Twitter to condemn the suicide attack.

“My prayers and condolences go to victims families. It is imperative we improve our intelligence gathering and properly equip our police forces to combat the growing threat of terrorism,” said Khan. 

Former president and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari condemned the incident, saying that the terrorists being active in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is “extremely dangerous”.

He said that the government should end the nurseries of terrorism by following the national action plan.

Former provincial chief minister Mahmood Khan strongly condemned the incident, saying that the blast is very “heartbreaking”.

“The loss of lives is extremely upsetting,” said Khan while praying for the martyrs and for the speedy recovery of the injured.

Islamabad on alert

Inspector General of Islamabad Dr Akbar Nasir Khan issued orders to put security on high alert in the federal capital.

Moreover, checking has been increased at all the entry and exit points in the city while monitoring is being done by Safe City Capital Command and Control Centre Islamabad.

Snipers have also been deployed at important sites and buildings.

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