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Pakistan blames mosque blast on ‘security breach’; 100 dead

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Pakistan blames

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — A suicide bombing that struck inside a mosque at a police and government compound in northwest Pakistan reflects “security lapses,” officials said. current and former as the death toll in the devastating blast rose to 100 on Tuesday.

The blast, which ripped through a Sunni mosque inside a major police station in the city of Peshawar, was one of the deadliest attacks on Pakistani security forces in recent years. It injured up to 225 people, some of whom are still in serious condition in hospital, according to Kashif Aftab Abbasi, a senior officer in Peshawar.

More than 300 worshipers were praying in the mosque, and more were approaching, when the suicide bomber set off his bullet-proof vest on Monday morning, officials said.

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The blast blew off part of the roof, and what was left quickly collapsed, injuring many others, according to Zafar Khan, a police officer. Rescuers had to remove mounds of debris to reach worshipers still trapped under the rubble.

Mohammad Asim, spokesman for the government hospital in Peshawar, said more bodies were found overnight and early Tuesday, and several of the seriously injured people died. “Most of them were police,” Asim said of the victims.

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Bilal Faizi, the chief relief officer, said rescue teams were still working at the site on Tuesday as more people are believed to be trapped inside. Mourners buried the victim in various cemeteries in the city and elsewhere.

Counter-terrorism police are investigating how the suicide bomber was able to reach the mosque, which is in a fortified compound inside a high-security zone with other government buildings.

“Yes, it was a security breach,” said Ghulam Ali, governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, of which Peshawar is the capital.

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Abbasi, the official who gave the latest casualty toll, agreed. “There was a breach of security and the Inspector General of Police has set up a commission of inquiry, which will examine all aspects of the attack,” he said. “Action will be taken against those whose negligence” caused the attack.

Talat Masood, a retired army general and senior security analyst, said Monday’s suicide bombing showed “negligence”.

“When you know that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan is active, and when you know that they have threatened to carry out attacks, there should have been more security in the police compound in Peshawar,” he said. he told The Associated Press on Tuesday, referring to a militant group also known as the Pakistani Taliban or TPT.

Kamran Bangash, provincial general secretary of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, called for an investigation and said Pakistan would continue to face political instability as long as the current government is in power.

“The current government of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has failed to improve the economy and the law and order situation, and he should step down to pave the way for early parliamentary elections,” he said.

The Army media wing declined an Associated Press interview request for the Army Chief of Staff. Asim Munir, who took office in November, has yet to make any media appearances.

Sharif visited a hospital in Peshawar after the bombing and vowed “stern action” against those behind the attack. “The scale of the human tragedy is unimaginable. This is nothing less than an attack on Pakistan,” he tweeted.

On Tuesday he dismissed criticism of his government and called for unity.

“Through their despicable actions, terrorists want to spread fear and paranoia among the masses and reverse our hard-earned gains against terrorism and militancy,” he tweeted. “My message to all political forces is that of unity against anti-Pakistani elements. We can fight our political battles later.

Authorities have not determined who was behind the attack. Shortly after the blast, TTP commander Sarbakaf Mohmand claimed responsibility for the attack in a Twitter post.

But hours later, TTP spokesman Mohammad Khurasani distanced himself from the attack, saying it was not his policy to target mosques, seminaries and religious places, adding that those who participated in such acts could face sanctions under the TTP policy. His statement did not explain why a TTP commander had claimed responsibility for the attack.

Pakistan, which is predominantly Sunni Muslim, has seen an upsurge in militant attacks since November, when the Pakistani Taliban ended a ceasefire. with government forces, as the country faced unprecedented flooding which killed 1,739 people, destroyed more than 2 million homes and at one point submerged up to a third of the country.

The Pakistani Taliban are the dominant militant group in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and Peshawar has been the scene of frequent attacks. But Islamic State in Khorasan province, a regional affiliate of the Islamic State group and rival to the Taliban, has also been behind deadly attacks in Pakistan in recent years. Overall, violence has increased since the Afghan Taliban seized power in neighboring Afghanistan in August 2021 as US and NATO troops withdrew from the country after 20 years of war.

The TTP is distinct but a close ally of the Afghan Taliban. It has led an insurgency in Pakistan for the past 15 years, seeking stricter enforcement of Islamic laws, the release of its government-detained members and a reduction in the Pakistani military presence in areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province that ‘he’s been using as a base for a long time.

Earlier this month, the Pakistani Taliban claimed that one of their operatives shot and killed two intelligence officers, including the director of the counterterrorism branch of the military spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence. Security officials said on Monday the gunman was found and killed in a shooting in the northwest, near the Afghan border. In 2014, a Pakistani Taliban faction attacked a military-run school in Peshawar and killed 154 people, mostly schoolchildren.

The Taliban-run Afghan Foreign Ministry said it was “saddened to learn that many people lost their lives” in Peshawar and condemned the attacks on worshipers as contrary to the teachings of Islam.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is visiting the Middle East, tweeted his condolences, saying the Peshawar bombing was a “horrific attack”.

“Terrorism for any reason, anywhere, is indefensible,” he said.

Pakistan is also grappling with political and economic problems crises following floods and a disputed election.

Condemnations also came from the Saudi Embassy in Islamabad, as well as the US Embassy, ​​which said “the United States stands with Pakistan in condemning all forms of terrorism”. .

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the attack “particularly heinous” because it targeted a place of worship, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan also expressed his condolences, calling the attack a “terrorist suicide bombing”.


Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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