A suicide blast killed 63 worshippers in a mosque in Pakistan's northwest provincial capital of Peshawar on Monday afternoon. The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack.
by Jamil Bhatti
ISLAMABAD, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- The death toll from the suicide blast that ripped through a mosque on Monday afternoon in Pakistan's northwest provincial capital of Peshawar rose to 63, an official told Xinhua.
Spokesperson of Lady Reading Hospital Muhammad Asim said on early Tuesday morning that the death toll rose after some injured succumbed to their injuries and more bodies were recovered from the debris of the mosque that collapsed following the blast.
The spokesperson added that at least 157 injured were still under treatment, out of which 12 to 15 were in critical condition at the hospital, fearing that the death toll might further rise.
The deceased included three police officers and other police personnel, civilians, the prayer leader and a woman who was residing in a house near the mosque. At least three of the victims have not been identified yet.
Spokesperson of Rescue-1122 Bilal Faizi told Xinhua that some people were still trapped under the rubble and were being traced and rescued carefully with the help of modern technology.
The rescue official added that they had already reached more trapped people and started providing them with medical aid, including oxygen.
Muhammad Ijaz Khan, capital city police officer of Peshawar in the northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, told Xinhua that over 300 people were praying in the mosque of the Police Lines area of the city when the blast happened, killing and wounding people including police officers.
He added that a big part of the mosque building collapsed after the powerful blast, trapping several worshippers.
The Police Lines area is located in Peshawar's high-security zone where a large number of law enforcement agencies, including Frontier Corps and the counter-terrorism department of police, are situated.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan said that the target of the suicide bomber was the police personnel whose department has been fighting terrorism.
The capital city police has termed the attack as a security lapse, adding that an inquiry had been initiated to find out how the bomber managed to sneak into the highly secured area.
Security forces had cordoned off the area and launched a full-fledged investigation into the incident.
Local reports said that the police had found the head of the suicide bomber who detonated his explosive-laden vest while standing amid the worshippers.
Sub-inspector of police Mushtaq Khan, who was wounded in the attack, told media that he was in the second prayer hall of the mosque and was preparing to enter the main hall when the blast occurred and he fell unconscious.
Following the explosion, the provincial health department declared an emergency in hospitals in Peshawar and appealed to the public for blood donation.
People from all walks of life condemned the attack and urged the government to take decisive measures against terrorists, including equipping police force with modern weapons to combat the growing threat of terrorism.
Pakistani President Arif Alvi condemned the attack and expressed deep grief over the martyrdom of the worshippers, and termed the attacker as the enemy of religion, humanity and Pakistan.
"The entire Pakistani nation is committed against terrorism, and such acts of terrorism can not shake the resolve of the nation," he said, adding that there is a need to take joint and far-reaching measures to eliminate the roots of terrorism.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif strongly condemned the blast, saying the entire nation is united against the menace of terrorism.
"A comprehensive strategy will be adopted to counter the deteriorating law and order situation and the government will help provinces increase their anti-terrorism capacity," he said.
The prime minister visited the injured and chaired a high-level emergency security meeting in Peshawar, which was also attended by Army Chief Asim Munir, and analyzed the current security situation in the country. Security has been declared on high alert across the country.
According to local media reports, the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that a 25-year-old bomber conducted the attack with seven kilograms of explosives.