Peshawar, Pakistan — A suicide bomber struck Monday inside a mosque packed with Pakistani police in the northwest city of Peshawar, killing almost 60 people and wounding scores more, officials said. The bomber detonated a suicide vest as worshipers — including many police and other security forces — were praying inside.
At least 59 people were killed and 157 injured in the blast, Mohammed Asim, a spokesperson for the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, told CBS News’ Maria Usman. There was fear the death toll could still rise, as many of those hospitalized were brought in with critical injuries.
The bomber struck during early afternoon prayers at a mosque in Peshawar’s “Police Lines” area, a secured zone within the sprawling city where the regional Police Secretariat is located, along with apartments housing officers and other security staff.
A senior superintendent of the Peshawar Police told CBS News the entire roof of the mosque had caved in, and the mosque was likely full as it was the first day of the working week.
CBS News’ Usman reported that said the Police Lines zone of Peshawar is guarded by several checkpoints, and with no businesses or other commerce, only authorized personnel can access the area. Police said there were likely some 260 people inside the mosque, many of them serving officers, when the
The Pakistani Taliban, or Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the bombing in Peshawar, the capital of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. A commander of the group issued the claim in a tweet.
As CBS News’ Sami Yousafzai reports, the terror group recently broke off peace talks with the country’s government and relaunched military operations against state security forces.
The TTP is believed to have gained strength over the last couple years, since the Afghan Taliban retook control of the neighboring country in August 2021. The TTP are a separate group to the Afghan Taliban, but they are close allies.
The TTP has waged an insurgency in Pakistan for 15 years, fighting for stricter enforcement of Islamic laws in the country, the release of members in government custody and a reduction of Pakistani military presence in the country’s former tribal regions.
A Pakistani security officer who spoke to CBS News on the condition of anonymity said the country’s armed forces had made significant strides against the TTP, but that the group had managed to regain operational strength by operating across the Afghan border, enabling it to “start attacking soft targets in Pakistan.”
The official said TTP leaders were orchestrating attacks inside Pakistan from Afghan soil, and said it was the “duty and responsibility” of the Afghan Taliban regime ruling the neighboring nation to prevent such operations.
A survivor of Monday’s attack, 38-year-old police officer Meena Gul, said he was inside the mosque when the bomb went off. He said he didn’t know how he survived unhurt. He could hear cries and screams after the bomb exploded, he said. Gul said there were more than 150 worshippers inside the mosque when the bomb went off.
Another local officer, Aftab Khan, told CBS News he was preparing to go to the mosque to pray when he heard the “huge blast.”
“Due to security threats and fears of Taliban attack, police were on high alert,” he said, “but this tragic attack took the lives of many police and civilians.”
Pakistan’s DAWN TV network quoted Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif as condemning the attack and lambasting the attackers as having “nothing to do with Islam.”
“Terrorists want to create fear by targeting those who perform the duty of defending Pakistan,” he said, alluding to the high number of security forces who use the mosque. “The entire nation is standing united against the menace of terrorism.”
Source:AFP,Getty Images CBS News and AP