By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
ISLAMABAD (Worthy News) – Authorities say a suspected suicide bomb blast carried out by the Pakistan Taliban group at a mosque in north-western Pakistan killed at least 61 people and injured more than 160 worshipers.
Most of those who died Monday in the city of Peshawar was part of the police force, and it was believed they were the target of the attack.
The police headquarters in Peshawar is in one of the most tightly controlled areas of the city, housing intelligence and counter-terrorism bureaus, according to sources familiar with the duration.
It is next door to the regional secretariat. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said those behind the tragedy “have nothing to do with Islam.”
Islamic militants have also targeted churches and individual Christians in the past.
Monday’s blast struck as hundreds of worshipers were praying in the mosque, located in the Police Lines area of the city where the police headquarters and counter-terrorism officers are based, authorities said.
Most of those inside the mosque were thought to be officers. “Many policemen are buried under the rubble,” said Peshawar police chief Muhammad Ijaz Khan, who estimated between 300 and 400 officers usually attended prayers.
“Efforts are being made to get them out safely,” he added.
Rescuers were using their hands and heavy machinery to remove rubble to get to the injured, local television news footage showed.
Bloodied survivors emerged limping from the wreckage, and fleets of ambulances took victims away while the city’s main hospital appealed for blood donations.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack amid a worsening security situation in the Islamic nation with reports of growing Islamic extremism in Pakistan.
The regional chapter of the Islamic State group, whose numbers increased after prison escapes in neighboring Afghanistan in 2021, claimed an attack last year on a minority Shiite mosque in Peshawar that killed 64 people. That was Pakistan’s deadliest terror attack since 2018, but Tuesday’s incident could prove to be more lethal, with many victims still unaccounted for.
Police investigators said the bomber in 2021 was an Afghan exile who returned home to train for the attack.
Experts say the violence shows that the relative order in Pakistan established after a major military crackdown in 2014 has deteriorated after the Afghan Taliban took over Afghanistan.
Islamabad has accused the new rulers, in power since August 2021, of failing to secure their mountainous border, allowing militants to travel back and forth without being detected.
The biggest threat comes from a resurgent Pakistani Taliban, a separate movement from the Afghan Taliban but with a similar ideology, according to sources familiar with the situation.
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