The death toll in in a suicide attack inside a mosque in Peshawar’s Police Lines area has risen to 72 as nine more bodies have been recovered from the rubble.
The police said that the bombing occurred at the central hall of the mosque at 1 PM, causing the roof to collapse on the worshippers who were participating in the Zuhr prayers at that moment.
The explosion took place inside a mosque in Police Lines, while the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) took responsibility for the attack.
Rescue officials revealed that the blast took place during Zuhr prayer, as the suicide bomber was standing in the front row.
They said that the sound of the explosion was so loud that it was heard far away while gunshots were also heard after the blast.
Day of mourning
KP Caretaker Chief Minister Muhammad Azam Khan has announced a day of mourning in the province tomorrow (Tuesday) following the heinous attack.
The national flag will be at half-mast across the province, he said, adding, “The government share the grief of the martyrs’ families.”
The interim CM also assured the aggrieved families that the provincial government would not leave them alone in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Premier’s visit to Peshawar
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif reached Peshawar where he was briefed on all aspects about the blast. He also visited the injured after the briefing.
The premier was accompanied by Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah.
After being questioned by PM Shehbaz about the attack on the mosque, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Inspector General of Police Moazzam Jah Ansari said that “investigations are underway” about how the attack happened and how the terrorist entered the vicinity.
“Don’t know where the attacker came from and how he entered?” Ansari said.
The police chief further said that “there are family quarters inside the Police Lines and the attacker could be already living in the area”.
Rescue operation at blast site
Two more bodies have been pulled out of the rubble, official of the Rescue 1122 said, adding that the services recovered five people trapped under the wreckage.
“Two injured and three dead bodies have been retrieved from the rubble,” the rescue spokesperson Bilal Faizi said.
Meanwhile, spokesperson of the Lady Reading Hospital Muhammad Asim said that 157 injured people were brought to the medical facility after the blast.
“Bodies of 44 people were also transferred to the hospital. At the moment, around 65 injured are getting treatment at the Lady Reading Hospital. Some of the injured are critical, while condition of most is satisfactory,” Asim said, adding that most people among the injured and dead included police officers.
Following the blast, the injured were shifted to the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar. The hospital appealed citizens to donate blood for the victims.
The Khyber Medical College’s Forensic department dean said that the postmortem of 40 bodies has been completed. “Bodies of the 40 people have been handed over to their families. A report will be prepared once autopsies of all bodies are done.”
Funeral prayer offered
Funeral prayer of 27 martyrs have been performed with Corp Commander Peshawar, IG Police, Commandant Frontier Corps in attendance.
The police team saluted the martyrs, while strict security measures were taken around the Police Lines area.
‘Imam mosque also martyred’
According to police, 32 people were killed, including imam of the mosque Sahibzada Noor Ul Amin.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson of Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar confirmed that 32 people have been killed in the terror attack.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has reached Peshawar where he is being briefed on all aspects about the blast.
PM Shehbaz will also visit the injured. He will be accompanied by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangezeb and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah.
PM Shehbaz appeals for blood donations
In a bid save the lives of those injured in the deadly blast, Premier Shehbaz Sharif appealed to people, students and PML-N workers immediately reach the Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar and share their contribution in saving precious human lives.
Taking to the microblogging site Twitter, he said: “I direct the PML-N’s workers to donate blood for saving the lives of the injured.”
Capital City Police Officer, Peshawar (CCPO) Ejaz Khan, while talking to the media persons, said that it was too early to say anything as many policemen are still trapped under the rubble.
“We are currently focused on the rescue operation. We cannot say with surety but there is a smell of explosives inside the mosque,” said the CCPO. He added that the location has the headquarters of the Peshawar Police, Counter Terrorism Department (CTD), FRP, Elite Force and telecommunications department.
“Close to 300-400 policemen usually offer prayer at the Zuhr time. If a blast has taken place inside Police Lines then it is a security lapse but an investigation into the matter can reveal further,” the CCPO said.
It was learnt that a portion of the building had collapsed and several people are believed to be under it. Footage from PTV showed Police and residents scrambling to remove the debris and carrying wounded people on their shoulders.
“I am here at the scene and rescue work is ongoing,” Peshawar Deputy Commissioner Shafi Ullah Khan said. “More bodies are being taken out. Currently, our priority is to save people buried under the debris.”
An eyewitness told the media that he was going to the mosque when the explosion took place.
“It was a powerful explosion. There was smoke everywhere after the blast,” said the eyewitness. He added that when got conscious he saw the roof of the mosque collapse.
“There were at least 120 people in the mosque when the incident took place. It was a suicide blast because the bomber was inside the mosque’s inner courtyard. The Zuhr prayer had just started when it happened. There were mostly policemen among the injured,” the eyewitness recalled.
Meanwhile, the President of the Civil Secretariat Association Peshawar Tassavur Iqbal, who regularly prays at the mosque, said that the Police Lines area’s security is always high and no one can enter without showing their identity and body search.
“This is an unfortunate incident that took place here today. This is a big mosque and 400-500 people can offer prayer at a time. We are hearing that the building collapsed after the blast,” Iqbal said.
‘Bomber crossed two police checkposts’
Journalist Qaiser explained that the Police Lines is located in Peshawar Cantt’s most sensitive area where a large number of law enforcement and FC personnel are present around the clock.
“The offices of KP’s CTD and police investigation department are situated here. Usually, 1,000 police personnel are present at the police headquarters,” he added.
The journalist said that in order to go inside the area one has to stop at two police checkposts.
“The bomber was able to sneak inside after passing through checking three times,” said the journalist.
‘KP’s law and order situation will be restored’
Speaking to Geo News, Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif revealed that the roof fell due to the intensity of the blast, adding that the hospitals have been overwhelmed.
He said that the police have been targeted, emphasising that the machinery that controlled terrorism before needs to be activated again.
Asif assured the people that the law and order situation in KP will be restored as measures are being taken.
The defence minister said that even though they receive threats, people cannot be stopped from entering a mosque.
Medical emergency imposed in KP
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Caretaker Chief Minister Muhammad Azam Khan announced to impose of a medical emergency in major hospitals of Peshawar. The interim CM further directed all rescue organisations to speed up relief activities.
The CM has ordered to ensure immediate measures to transfer the injured to the hospital, directing the concerned authorities to provide timely medical assistance to the injured who are being shifted to hospitals.
The provincial health department announced a “medical emergency” in the city in the wake of the Police Lines Peshawar bomb blast.
“All the doctors and support staff in the government health facilities including MTIs in district Peshawar are directed to remain on red alert to cope with the emergencies, till further orders,” the notification issued in this regard.
Condemnations pour in
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif strongly condemned the blast, adding that the blast inside a mosque proves that those involved in the attack have “nothing to do with Islam.”
“These terrorists are trying to instil fear by targeting those who perform the duty of defending Pakistan,” he said, assuring the people that the coalition government will take strict action against those involved.
Strongly condemning the terrorist suicide attack, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan said: “It is imperative we improve our intelligence gathering [and] properly equip our police forces to combat the growing threat of terrorism.”
The former prime minister shared his prayer and condolences go to the victims’ families.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, condemning the incident, said that strict action will be taken against the terrorists, their backers and facilitators.
Terror incidents before general and by-elections are “meaningful”, he added.
Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal termed the attack “worst terrorism”.
Taking to his Twitter handle, the minister said: “The aim of such brutal and cowardly attacks is to weaken the nation’s resolve against terrorism, but this resolve will be strengthened by every drop of blood and martyrdom.”
Meanwhile, former president and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari condemned the incident, saying that the terrorists being active in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is “extremely dangerous”.
He said that the government should end the nurseries of terrorism by following the national action plan.
Former provincial chief minister Mahmood Khan said that the blast was “heartbreaking”.
“The loss of lives is extremely upsetting,” Khan said while praying for the martyrs and for the speedy recovery of the injured.
Calling the blast in Peshawar the “worst act of terrorism”, PML-N leader Hamza Shahbaz said that the deteriorating law and order situation in KP and the recent incidents of terrorism were very worrying.
He prayed for the speedy recovery of the injured, high ranks of the martyrs and patience for those who lost their loved ones.
Security on high alert in Islamabad
Following the blast in Peshawar, Inspector-General of Islamabad Dr Akbar Nasir Khan issued orders to put security on high alert in the federal capital.
Moreover, checking has been increased at all the entry and exit points in the city while monitoring is being done by Safe City Capital Command and Control Centre Islamabad.
Snipers have also been deployed at important sites and buildings.