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Dozens killed in mosque blast in Peshawar | Pakistan

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Rajeshchandra Devjee
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At least 59 people have been killed and more than 150 injured in a suicide attack by the Pakistani Taliban on a mosque in the city of Peshawar as the security situation in the country continues to deteriorate.

The blast happened while 300 worshipers were praying in a mosque. The mosque is located in the area of ​​Peshawar Police Station in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the city’s police headquarters and counter-terrorism officers are based. Most of the mosques were considered officers. The force of the blast collapsed the roof and one of the walls of the mosque, injuring many people, said local police officer Zafar Khan. Witnesses said the explosion occurred in the main hall as afternoon prayers were about to begin and devotees were crowding inside. Officials said the bomber was in the front row.

The Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), took responsibility for the attack, claiming it was revenge for a fighter killed in Afghanistan last year. The TTP, which is believed to be close to al-Qaida, has waged an insurgency in Pakistan for the past 15 years, fighting for stricter enforcement of Islamic laws and the release of jailed members, and have been responsible for multiple deadly attacks in the past.

The group have recently intensified their militancy after a ceasefire with the government broke down in November. They have claimed responsibility for almost a dozen attacks in recent months, mostly targeting military and police in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province which borders Afghanistan Rescuers at the blast scene scrambled to pull worshippers out from beneath heavy debris from the fallen roof, with at least 20 thought to still be trapped as night fell. Khan said several of the wounded were in a critical condition at a hospital and there were fears the death toll would rise.

As Khan said between 300 and 400 police officers were in the area when the blast took place and the bomber had breached multiple layers of security to enter the mosque. “It is apparent that a security lapse occurred,” he told reporters. Meena Gul, a police officer, said he was inside the mosque when the bomb went off and could hear cries and screams after the explosion.

The Pakistani prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, called it a “suicide attack” and ordered authorities to ensure the best possible medical treatment to the survivors. “Terrorists want to create fear by targeting those who perform the duty of defending Pakistan,” he said in a statement. After visiting the scene, Sharif said the bombing was “no less than an attack on Pakistan”. The former prime minister Imran Khan said better intelligence gathering and security for police forces was needed to “combat the growing threat of terrorism”.

Although the TTP is a separate entity from the Afghan Taliban, the Taliban’s rise to power in Kabul has empowered the group in neighboring Pakistan, particularly Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In January, a group of Pakistani Taliban fighters attacked a police station in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and in December dozens of TTP prisoners overwhelmed their guards at a counterterrorism center in the Bannu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, take hostages and take control of the facility longer. more than 24 hours.

Peshawar, the besieged capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has been a frequent target of rebel attacks and suicide bombings, most recently in March 2022 when 56 worshipers were killed in an explosion at a Shia mosque in the city, the Islamic State claimed responsibility. After the attack, security was tightened in other major cities, including Islamabad, where security at all points of entry and exit to the capital was tightened and snipers were deployed at “several areas.” important sites and buildings”.

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