Peshawar, January 30
A Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque packed with worshippers during afternoon prayers on Monday in the high-security zone in Pakistan’s restive northwestern Peshawar city, killing at least 61 people and wounding more than 150 others, mostly policemen, officials said.
The powerful blast occurred inside the mosque in the Police Lines area around 1.40 pm when worshippers, which included personnel of the police, army and bomb disposal squad – were offering the Zuhr (afternoon) prayers.
The bomber who was present in the front row blew himself up, causing the roof to collapse on the worshippers, officials said.
Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Peshawar Muhammad Ijaz Khan said 61 people have been killed in the blast.
He said that 300 to 400 police officials were present in the area at the time of the blast. “It is apparent that a security lapse occurred,” he told the media.
At least five sub-inspectors and the mosque’s prayer leader Maulana Sahibzada Noorul Amin were among the dead.
Lady Reading Hospital officials said more than 150 people were injured.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), known as the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, saying it was part of a revenge attack for slain TTP commander Umar Khalid Khurasani who was killed in Afghanistan in August last.
A police official said that a portion of the mosque collapsed and several people were believed to be under it.
“We are currently focused on the rescue operation. Our first priority is to safely retrieve the people buried under the debris,” in-charge Rescue operation Bilal Faizi said.
The bomber entered the highly secured mosque inside police lines where four layers of security were in place.
Provincial Police chief Moazzam Jah Ansari said they are investigating the blast and how the bomber entered the highly fortified mosque.
He expressed the apprehensions that the bomber might have been residing in the police lines before the blast as there are family quarters too inside the police lines.