At least 59 people died in a suicide attack in a mosque in north-west Pakistan. Around 150 believers were injured in the attack in the city of Peshawar on Monday, hospital representatives told the German Press Agency. The attack therefore occurred in a high-security zone, which also includes many police buildings.
Initially, no group claimed responsibility for the attack. At the end of last year, however, the Pakistani Taliban – which are independent of the Islamist Taliban government in neighboring Afghanistan – canceled a ceasefire with the government in Islamabad. Since then, they have claimed responsibility for several attacks.
A police officer who survived the attack during midday prayers told Pakistani TV station Geo News: “It was a powerful explosion. There was smoke everywhere.” Rescuers tried to free the people trapped under the rubble. At the time of the attack, around 300 believers are said to have stayed there.
The attack reminded an officer in the city of conflicts of the past. “God forbid, I’m afraid those horrible days are back,” said Amjad Khan. “Everyone is afraid here.”
After the attack, hospitals called for blood donations. The majority of the victims were police officers, it said from the clinics. It was one of the deadliest attacks against Pakistan’s security forces in recent years. In Pakistan, the vast majority of the population of more than 230 million people is Muslim. About two million people live in the city of Peshawar.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the attack during a visit to a local hospital. “Terrorists want to create fear by targeting those with a duty to defend Pakistan,” he said. Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah announced an investigation.
The German ambassador in Pakistan, Alfred Grannas, also condemned the attack. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed his condolences to the bereaved. “Terrorism, for any reason, anywhere, is unjustifiable,” Blinken wrote on Twitter.
Peshawar in the border province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was a region of unrest in Pakistan for a long time – after a military offensive against Islamist terrorist groups in 2014, things have calmed down. In recent years, however, there have been more attacks there. It was not until March 2022 that an IS terrorist militia blew himself up in Peshawar, killing more than 60 people.
The tense security situation in Pakistan has also been felt in the capital Islamabad in recent months. There were numerous checkpoints and increased military presence in the metropolis.
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