Peshawar, Pakistan was the site of a devastating suicide bombing yesterday as a bomber detonated himself in a crowded mosque. The attacker targeted a mosque in a highly secure compound known as the “Red Zone,” which houses counter-terrorism and police offices.
Some 400 worshippers were inside the mosque when the bomber detonated explosives, resulting in 59 deaths, with 27 of them being police officers.
Many of the 170 injured worshippers were listed in critical condition and rescuers worked to reach those trapped in the rubble of the partially collapsed mosque. The bombing occurred just as everyone lined up for prayers.
The security lapse that allowed the bomber to reach the secure mosque remains under investigation, but authorities are looking into the possibility of inside help. The suicide bomber had to pass through security guards at multiple barricades to get inside the compound and to the mosque.
Many witnesses described the chaos of the aftermath of the bombing, as the upper level of the mosque collapsed, trapping victims. Rescuers cut through the rubble and raced to get the wounded to hospitals while police worked to secure the scene.
No group has claimed responsibility for the bombing, making it unclear who was behind this devastating act of violence against the mosque. The Taliban group known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan denied responsibility for the bomb, though Islamist militant groups, including Islamic State and the Pakistani Taliban, have frequently targeted Peshawar in the past.
The mosque bombing is especially damaging to Pakistan as it came a day before the International Monetary Fund was set to arrive in Islamabad. They planned to discuss unlocking funding for Pakistan’s struggling economy.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that an attack targeting Muslims during prayer is counter to Islam. He called on members of his political party to donate blood and expressed his condolences to the victims and their families.
“The sheer scale of the human tragedy is unimaginable. This is no less than an attack on Pakistan. The nation is overwhelmed by a deep sense of grief. I have no doubt terrorism is our foremost national security challenge.”
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