Families look for loved ones as Pakistan mosque blast toll kills 100

Jago News Desk Published: 31 January 2023, 08:23 PM
Families look for loved ones as Pakistan mosque blast toll kills 100
An Army soldier and rescue workers survey the damages, after a suicide blast in a mosque in Peshawar, Pakistan January 31, 2023. Photo: Reuters

As death toll from the suicide blast in Peshawar’s strictly-guarded Police Lines area reaches 100 and wounded victims stand at 221, families Tuesday flocked to hospitals searching for their loved ones — most of whom were policemen offering the Zuhr prayer as the suicide bomber blew himself inside the Malik Saad Shaheed mosque a day earlier.

The attack was the deadliest in a decade to hit the restive city near the Afghan border and comes amid a surge in violence against law enforcement agencies. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the colossal blast.

"My son, my child," cried an elderly woman walking alongside an ambulance carrying coffins, as rescue workers stretchered wounded people to a hospital emergency unit.

Riaz Mahsud, a senior local government official, said the casualty toll was likely to rise as workers searched through the debris just over 24 hours later.

"So far, 100 bodies have been brought to Lady Reading Hospital," spokesman for the largest medical facility in the city, Mohammad Asim, said in a statement.

Authorities say they do not know how the bomber managed to breach the military and police checkpoints leading into the Police Lines district, a colonial-era, self-contained encampment in the city centre that is home to middle- and lower-ranking police personnel and their families.

Given the security concerns in Peshawar, the mosque was recently built to allow police to pray without leaving the area. Defence minister Khawaja Asif said the bomber was in the first row in the prayer hall when he struck.

KP’s capital city sits on the edge of the Pashtun tribal lands, a region mired in violence for the past two decades. The most active militant group in the area is the Pakistani Taliban, also called TTP, an umbrella group for Sunni and sectarian Islamist factions opposed to the government in Islamabad, which has stepped up attacks since withdrawing from a peace deal with the government last year.

The bombing took place a day before an International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission arrives in Islamabad for talks on a stalled $7 billion bailout.

Spokesperson of the Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar Mohammad Asim informed about 100 bodies being brought into the medical facility and 53 people undergoing treatment.

Seven among the injured have been admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU), with fears of the death toll rising.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa caretaker Chief Minister Azam Khan revealed that an inquiry committee has been constituted to identify those who are responsible for this act.

The rescue operation to retrieve bodies from the debris of the mosque has been concluded, said Rescue 1122's spokesperson.

Preliminary investigation

A preliminary investigation report of the blast has been sent to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, sources told Geo News.

The sources said that evidence found at the incident's site indicates that it was a suicide attack.

As per the report, the roof tumbled down as the pillars collapsed, causing immense damage. The sources added that a high-level investigation committee has been set up to look into security lapses at site.

Probe will clear everything soon: IG

Speaking during a press conference alongside KP CM Azam Khan, Inspector-General Moazzam Jah Ansari said that about 10-12 kilograms of explosives were used in the blast.

Quoting the report, the sources added, CCTV footage from the Police Lines gate and family quarters is being investigated.

He said that there has been a security lapse and investigations are underway to ascertain the facts. "We are checking one-month's CCTV footage and tracking the facilitators of the bomber," he added.

The provincial police chief said that a joint investigation team (JIT) has been notified and the probe will clear everything soon. Those responsible will be identified and brought to book, he added.

He said that the attacker might have entered the premises as a guest. He added that the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had denied responsibility for the attack last night.

Earlier, the IG said that there are over 2,000 policemen in the Police Lines working with eight different departments.

He said that a large number of civilians visit this place on a daily basis, adding that it also has family quarters. "Construction work was also going on in the locality with workers coming in and going out every day," he added.

Day of mourning

KP CM Khan on Monday announced a day of mourning in the province today following the heinous attack.

The national flag will be at half-mast across the province, he said, adding, “The government share the grief of the martyrs’ families.”

The interim CM also assured the aggrieved families that the provincial government would not leave them alone in the aftermath of the tragedy.

World offers condolences

The ghastly attack triggered an outpour of reactions from the world community over the loss of lives, with leaders affirming their support for Pakistan against terrorism.

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed his "deepest condolences" over the loss of lives in the Peshawar suicide attack.

"Worshippers at a mosque in Peshawar endured a horrific attack today, which killed and injured many [...] I extend my deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims," he said.

Saudia Arabia also "reiterated its resolve to stand with Pakistan against all kinds of violence, extremism and terrorism" while condemning the heinous act, Radio Pakistan reported. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres extended heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and wished a quick recovery to the wounded.

He reiterated the world's support against terrorism and violent extremism.

Csaba Korosi, president of the UN General Assembly, called the incident a "truly horrid and cowardly attack".

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's (OIC) Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha also condemned the act while reassuring support for the nation to tackle terrorism.

Source: Reuters