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Sunday, April 2, 2023

Deadly explosion in Peshawar at a police HQ mosque

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An explosion Monday after midday prayers at a mosque inside the police headquarters in Peshawar, northwest Pakistan, left at least 61 people dead. An operation is still underway to rescue people trapped under the debris. The UN Secretary General denounced a “despicable” attack.

At least 61 people were killed, mostly police officers, in an alleged attack on Monday at a mosque inside the police headquarters in Peshawar, northwest Pakistan.

“So far, we have recovered 61 bodies, and 60 injured people are receiving medical treatment. Dozens of other injured people have been taken to other hospitals in the city,” Muhammad Asim Khan told AFP. spokesperson for Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar.

The explosion occurred at prayer time in this extremely sensitive place in the city, located about fifty kilometers from the border with Afghanistan. She pushed the government to place the whole country on high alert.

The UN secretary general “strongly condemns” the “suicide attack” with the “despicable” bomb, said his spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric. “The Secretary-General strongly condemns the suicide bombing that took place in a mosque in Peshawar today. It is particularly despicable that such an attack should occur in a place of worship,” he said. to the press.

A rescue operation was immediately launched to free the people trapped from the rubble, the roof and a wall of the building having collapsed under the blast of the explosion.

“A lot of policemen are buried under the debris,” Peshawar police chief Muhammad Ijaz Khan told AFP, saying that 300 to 400 people are usually present inside the mosque at the time of the day. prayer.

Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar told AFP that the facility had received the bodies of deceased persons.

An AFP reporter saw bloodied wounded being taken out of the damaged building and the bodies of apparently dead people being taken away in ambulances.

The police headquarters in Peshawar is one of the best policed ​​areas in the city. It also houses the premises of various intelligence agencies.

According to the police, the explosion occurred in the second row of the faithful assembled for prayer.

Bomb squads were on hand to examine the possibility that it was caused by a suicide bomber. “The terrorists want to create panic by targeting those who are fulfilling their duty to defend Pakistan,” Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said in a statement. “Those who fight Pakistan will be wiped off the face of the earth.”

People were screaming

Shahid, a 47-year-old policeman who survived the explosion, told AFP that the detonation came seconds after the imam had started the prayer. “I saw black smoke rising in the sky. I ran outside to save my life,” he said. “People’s screams still ring in my head. They were screaming for help.”

This incident took place on the same day that the President of the United Arab Emirates, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was due to pay an official visit to Islamabad. This was canceled at the last moment on Monday, officially due to rainy weather.

Pakistan is also due to receive a visit from a delegation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday to try to negotiate the release of vital financial aid for its dying economy.

The capital and the rest of the country, particularly on the border with Afghanistan, were placed under even heightened security alert after the explosion in Peshawar.

In March 2022, a suicide attack claimed by EI-K, the regional branch of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS), in a Shiite mosque in Peshawar killed 64 people. It was the deadliest attack in Pakistan since 2018.

Targeted attacks

According to the police, the suicide bomber was an Afghan national living in Pakistan with his family for several years, who had prepared the attack in Afghanistan.

Peshawar, about fifty kilometers from the border with Afghanistan, was ravaged by almost daily attacks during the first half of the 2010s, but security there had improved greatly in recent years.

In recent months, the city has mostly seen targeted attacks aimed primarily at security forces.

Pakistan has been facing deteriorating security for some months, especially since the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in August 2021. After several years of relative calm, the attacks have resumed with renewed vigour, led by the Pakistani Taliban of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the EI-K or Baloch separatist groups.

Pakistan accuses the Taliban of letting these groups use Afghan soil to plan their attacks, which Kabul has repeatedly denied.

The TTP, a movement distinct from that of the new Afghan leaders but which shares common roots with it, has claimed responsibility for several attacks in recent months. He denied any responsibility for the suicide bombing.

Pakistani authorities said the suspect set off his bomb as hundreds of worshipers crowded into the mosque. “We found traces of explosives,” Ijaz Khan told reporters, noting that there had clearly been a security breach, the “Red Zone” being the most protected of the complex.

An investigation has been opened to determine how the suicide bomber was able to cross the various security force checks and whether he benefited from accomplices.

Copyright © 2023 The Eastern Herald.

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