An explosion at a mosque in Pakistan’s northern city of Peshawar that killed 100 people, including an imam, and injured over 150 others, was a targeted revenge attack, a police chief told AFP on Tuesday.
Around 400 police personnel were present for afternoon prayers at the mosque’s compound on Monday in Pakistan’s Peshawar when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside the mosque.
City police chief Muhammad Ijaz Khan told AFP that they are being targeted because they are on the front line taking action against militants.
“The purpose was to demoralise us as a force,” City police chief Muhammad Ijaz Khan said.
Rescue operations ended on Tuesday after bringing out corpses from the wreck of the mosque and rushing those who could be saved to hospitals.
Wajahat Ali, a 23-year-old police constable whose feet were broken in the blast, told AFP from hospital that he had “remained trapped under the rubble with a dead body over me for seven hours. I had lost all hope of survival.”
Shahid Ali, another survivor, said the explosion took place seconds after the imam started prayers, AFP reported.
Low-level militancy, often targeting security checkpoints, has been steadily rising in the areas near Peshawar that border Afghanistan since the Taliban seized control of Kabul in August 2021.
The assaults are claimed mostly by the Pakistani Taliban, as well as the local chapter of the Islamic State, but mass casualty attacks remain rare.
The head of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province police force, Moazzam Jah Ansari, told reporters that a suicide bomber had entered the mosque as a guest, carrying 10-12 kilogrammes (about 22-26 pounds) of “explosive material in bits and pieces”.
Geo News reports stated a ‘suicide attacker’ blew himself up inside the mosque during prayers. The suicide attacker was present in the front row during the prayers when he exploded himself, news agency PTI quoted security officials as saying.
Following the blast, the country has been put on high alert, with checkpoints ramped up and extra security forces deployed. In Islamabad, snipers were deployed on buildings and at city entrance points.
“An emergency has been imposed at hospitals across the city and injured persons are being provided the best medical facilities,” Peshawar Commissioner Riaz Mehsood was quoted as saying by Dawn.