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Wednesday, July 17, 2024  
11 Muharram 1446  

Peshawar toll rises to 101 as rescuers operation ends

Over 221 people injured; explosion blows away part of mosque in Peshawar Police Lines
Security personnel and rescue workers prepare to search for the blast victims in the debris of a damaged mosque inside the police headquarters in Peshawar on January 30, 2023. AFP
Security personnel and rescue workers prepare to search for the blast victims in the debris of a damaged mosque inside the police headquarters in Peshawar on January 30, 2023. AFP
Funeral prayers for 27 policemen killed in the explosion was held Monday night. Twitter
Funeral prayers for 27 policemen killed in the explosion was held Monday night. Twitter
People help a mourner at the site of a mosque blast inside the police headquarters in Peshawar on January 30, 2023. AFP
People help a mourner at the site of a mosque blast inside the police headquarters in Peshawar on January 30, 2023. AFP
Security officials inspect the site of a mosque blast inside the police headquarters in Peshawar on January 30, 2023. AFP
Security officials inspect the site of a mosque blast inside the police headquarters in Peshawar on January 30, 2023. AFP
People come out of the rubble after the blast at the Peshawar mosque on January 23, 2023. Screengrab
People come out of the rubble after the blast at the Peshawar mosque on January 23, 2023. Screengrab
The whole area has been cordoned off by the security forces. Photo via Twitter/@khorasandiary
The whole area has been cordoned off by the security forces. Photo via Twitter/@khorasandiary
Rescue officials carry wounded people after a suicide blast at a mosque in Peshawar’s police lines on January 23, 2022. Screengrab
Rescue officials carry wounded people after a suicide blast at a mosque in Peshawar’s police lines on January 23, 2022. Screengrab
A view of the mosque in Peshawar’s police lines after the suicide blast on January 23, 2022. Screengrab
A view of the mosque in Peshawar’s police lines after the suicide blast on January 23, 2022. Screengrab
Security personnel stand guard outside the police headquarters after a blast in Peshawar on January 30, 2023. AFP
Security personnel stand guard outside the police headquarters after a blast in Peshawar on January 30, 2023. AFP

The death toll from Peshawar’s suicide attack on a mosque rose to 101 by Wednesday morning after another man succumbed to his injuries, Lady Reading Hospital spokesman Mohammad Asim said.

A suicide bomber blew himself up at the Police Lines mosque Monday just as the imam was preparing to lead zuhr prayers, according to police and witnesses.

Prayer leader Norul Amin was killed and many of the victims were police officers and constables.

Funerals were held across several districts of KP on Tuesday. At least 28 victims were from Charsadda.

Over two dezen injured were still receiving medical treatment at Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hosptial. At least 8 of them were said to be in critical condition.

Rescue operation

The powerful explosion blew away the wall of the hall and an inner roof. A woman in an adjacent home was killed. “The main hall of the mosque has fallen while the rest of the building remained undamaged. The hall, with a capacity of 250 to 300 people, has fallen,” CCPO Aijaz Khan said.

Many people were still under the rubble several hours after the explosion at 1:15pm. Rescuers continued to pull survivors and bodies out after removing collapsed concrete beams. The rescue operation ended Tuesday afternoon.

 Picture via Charsadda Police.
Picture via Charsadda Police.

The funeral prayer for 27 policemen was held Monday night in Peshawar. The photo showing multiple coffins draped in the Pakistani flag went viral.

“The injured have been taken to Lady Reading Hospital,” CCPO Aijaz Khan told reporters after visiting the crime scene.

Almost a year ago, a blast rocked Peshawar when a suicide attacker detonated himself while prayers were under way at an Imambargah located in the historic Qissa Khawani bazaar of the city. Sixty-two people were killed in the blast.

High-security zone

Monday’s attack took place inside a high-security zone next to a police headquarters. It is believed that a significant number of police officials were among the victims, but the exact figure was not yet known, the CCPO added.

The mosque, with a capacity of 1,000 worshippers, and the police lines were named after Malik Saad, a former Peshawar police chief, who was killed in a terror attack in 2007.

The mosque is located inside a compound that includes the headquarters of the provincial police force and a counter-terrorism department, FRP, Elite Force, and telecommunication.

People gather outside the mosque

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

There were at least 260 people inside, a police official Sikandar Khan told Reuters.

Around 300 to 400 people gather for prayers normally. He added that it looked like a “security lapse”, however, a “clear position” would be known after the investigation.

“At least 10 to 15 people are in critical condition. People are requested to not pay unnecessary visits to LRH because it causes difficulty for us. Right now we do not need blood or medicines. Please pray,” LRH spokesperson Asim said in a video message. He added that medical staff and nurses were present at the hospital.

“A larger number of people gathered outside the mosque, after the blast,” said Aaj News Bureau Chief Farzana Ali. “After the blast, the relatives of the worshipers at the mosque wanted to go inside and know about the well-being of their loved ones. It was feared that some people were still trapped under the debris about an hour after the blast,” she said.

However, security forces cordoned off the mosque and no one was being allowed inside.

Footage from the state broadcaster PTV showed police and residents scrambling to remove the debris and carrying wounded people on their shoulders.

 Rescue officials carry wounded people after a suicide blast at a mosque in Peshawar’s police lines on January 23, 2022. Screengrab
Rescue officials carry wounded people after a suicide blast at a mosque in Peshawar’s police lines on January 23, 2022. Screengrab

Not only the police officers and officials but also the businessmen of the area offer prayers in the mosque, according to our correspondent Azm Rehman. Monday is busier than usual.

Who were the dead

Authorities took a lot longer than usual to identify the dead following the explosion, says Aaj News bureau chief Farzana Ali.

In the past, the identification of bodies began shortly after they were moved to the hospital, she said.

Aaj News has received an initial list from Lady Reading Hospital. The list confirms that the imam leading the prayers, Sahibzada Norul Amin, was among the dead.

Inspector Doran Shah, Inspector Irfan Khan, Sub-Inspector Tilawat Shah, Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Zahir Shah, and Constable Nasim Shah also died in the bombing.

Inspector Irfan had recently been posted to Police Lines from the Phandu Police Station of Peshawar.

A woman Rashida Bibi wife of Peshawari Lala was among the dead.

The bodies of Wasim Shah, Gul Sharf, Liaquat, Mohammad Ali, Hayatullah Khattak, Mohammad Zubair, Mohammad Usman, Khalid Jan, Abdul Wadood, Liaquatullah, Atif Mujeeb and Rizwan have also been identified.

Rising militancy

The security situation in Pakistan –- once plagued by bombings until a major military crackdown almost a decade ago largely restored order –- has deteriorated since the return of the Afghan Taliban in Kabul.

Analysts say militants have become emboldened, with Islamabad accusing the new rulers of failing to secure their mountainous border, allowing militants to travel back and forth without being detected.

Security forces including police officers have increasingly been the target of low casualty assaults, claimed mostly by the outlawed TTP but also by the local chapter of the Islamic State, whose numbers were bolstered by prison breaks inside Afghanistan in 2021.

In a statement, the banned group – separate from the Afghan Taliban but with a similar Islamist ideology – denied it was responsible for the latest blast.

Provinces around the country announced they were on high alert after the blast, with checkpoints ramped up and extra security forces deployed, while in the capital Islamabad snipers were posted on buildings and at city entrance points.

Political leadership condemns blast

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the Peshawar mosque blast, reiterating the national resolve and unity to eliminate terrorism from the country.

“The killing of Muslims while they worshipped, is in violation of Islamic teaching and that the attack on a mosque evidenced that the perpetrators have nothing to do with Islam,” he said in a statement.

He added that terrorists wanted to create panic by targeting those safeguarding the country. “The killers of innocent people will be made an example. The whole nation including the institutions was united against terrorism,” he said.

Imran Khan has condemned the attack and offered his condolences to the victims.

Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that attack was the “worst form” of terrorism.

Former Sindh governor Imran Ismail said that terrorism was rearing its head again.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said that on behalf of all Londoners, his thoughts were with the victims and all those affected.

(With input from agencies)

This is a developing story and will be updated accordingly.

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