Peshawar Police Lines mosque suicide blast: Toll jumps to 100, 221 injured
At least 100 people were killed and over 221 – including police personnel – were injured, when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vest inside a mosque next to the Police Lines in Peshawar on Monday. As a result of the blast, a section of the mosque collapsed, trapping and killing scores more.
The preliminary investigation report of the suicide attack has been submitted to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. The report states that the evidence of the suicide attack has been found at the crime scene, including the severed head of the suicide bomber.
Meanwhile, Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) has obtained the footage of surrounding closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras.
While briefing the media on the attack, KP Police Inspector General (IG) Moazzam Jah Ansari said that the attacker brought the explosive material to the Police Lines in small amounts over time, as construction work was ongoing at the site.
The attacker later detonated the explosives, estimated to weigh between 10-12 kilograms, using a suicide jacket, he added.
He said that most of the deaths were caused not by the explosion but because of the shockwaves from the explosion caused the roof and a wall of the mosque to collapse on top of the front rows of worshipers.
As a result, scores of people were stuck under the debris for a long time. It took over 24 hours for rescue workers to clear the debris and recover trapped people and bodies.
The IGP said that they are probing claims of security lapse because they were checking at the gates leading to the Police Lines. But he admitted that there was a lapse somewhere.
The explosion took place at a time when worshipers had gathered in the mosque for the afternoon prayers. Witnesses and officials said that at least 200 people were inside the mosque when the incident took place.
The explosion was powerful enough to shatter window panes of nearby buildings and the blast was heard for areas relatively far away as well. It also caused a section of the mosque’s façade and roof to collapse as well.
Bloodied survivors limped from the wreckage, as dead bodies were ferried away in ambulances, an AFP reporter saw.
It also meant that officials feared that the toll could rise.
Rescue workers and ambulances had rushed to the spot. They said they shifted the casualties to nearby the Lady Reading Hospital and the Khyber Teaching Hospital along with the Hayatabad Medical Teaching Institute.
Heavy machinery was summoned to clear the debris as the fire brigade staff combed it for survivors.
An LRH Spokesperson Muhammad Asim said that they have confirmed that 17 bodies and around 70 injured were brought to the hospital.
He added that around 10 of the injured were in critical condition and were currently receiving treatment in operation theater.
Another 14 bodies were taken out of the debris and shifted to LRH on Tuesday.
Asim, however, could not comment on the nature of injuries suffered by the injured at the moment.
Meanwhile, Peshawar Deputy Commissioner Riaz Mehsud said that they had shifted the bodies of 28 people and 150 injured to various hospitals of the city including LRH, KTH and Hayatabad Medical Center.
He added that several injured were in critical condition and that the number of dead and injured could increase with many people believed to be trapped under the debris of the mosque.
However, he did not comment anything on the nature of the blast, stating that the police are still investigating the matter.
The area is located in a highly secure area of Peshawar with Police Secretariat and PTCL Colony all located nearby.
To access the area, people have to cross several police check posts. With no commercial area located within the police lines, only people with authorized access can enter the area.
Funeral of martyred cops offered
Later on Monday evening, the funeral prayers of 27 martyred cops were offered in the Police Lines.
The ground which is normally used for parades and other activities of police were lined with seven rows of coffins.
The funeral prayers were attended by junior and senior police and military officials along with locals, families and officials of the district administration and provincial government.
People may be trapped under debris
Jamaat-e-Islami Parliamentary Leader Inayatullah said that they fear there are more people trapped under the debris of the collapsed section of the mosque.
While clarifying that they do not know exactly how many people are still trapped under the debris, he said that they are trying to rescue all the people trapped under the debris.
Units of the Pakistan Army have also reached the spot to offer assistance.
This was confirmed by the Deputy Commissioner Riaz Mehsud as well.
He said that later on Monday evening, they have recovered 18 bodies and three survivors from the rubble.
They believe at least one more survivor is currently buried under the rubble for which a rescue operation is continuing.
What caused the explosion
While the police and other authorities have yet to offer an official explanation on what caused the explosion, Inayatullah suggested it could have been a suicide blast.
He said that they could smell burnt explosive materials while inside the mosque while there was talk amongst officials that it was possibly a suicide bomb explosion.
While police said that nothing can be said until the debris cleared and investigations are completed, Federal Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that it was possibly a suicide bomb attack.
Officers said the blast emanated from the second row of worshipers, with bomb disposal teams probing the possibility of a suicide attack.
Mosque’s prayer leader killed
As authorities work to identify the victims of the attack, one victim identified was the mosque’s prayer leader Maulana Sahibzada Noorul Amin.
Witnesses point to security lapse
An eyewitness told SAMAA TV said: “People were inside the mosque for prayers, I was also going to the mosque when the explosion took place.”
He added that immediately after the blast, the entire area was covered in dust and smoke.
Another witness, a police constable, said that he was passing by the mosque when the explosion took place.
He said that he saw a section of the mosque, where the prayer leader stands, collapse.
He said that in this area around 100 people can gather, but he did not know how many people were inside.
Asked about security, he said that the security outside the mosque was lax with people checked at the entrance and then there is another officer who is deputed inside the mosque, he said.
PM Shehbaz Sharif condemns attack
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned Monday’s attack in Peshawar.
He said that the brutal murder of Muslims went against everything that was taught by Islam.
PM Shehbaz added that they will form a policy to more effectively counter rising terrorism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Those waging a war against Pakistan will be eliminated.
Since the Taliban surged back to power in Afghanistan, Islamabad has accused them of failing to secure their mountainous border, allowing fighters to flit back and forth to stage attacks and escape capture.
Over the first 12 months of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, Pakistan witnessed a 50% surge in militant attacks, focused on the western border provinces, according to the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS).
Detectives said the March 2022 Islamic State bomber in Peshawar was an Afghan exile who had returned home to train for the attack.
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*This is a developing story and will be updated accordingly.