- Tragic scene of people searching for loved ones
- Attack in fortified zone confuses authorities
- Rescue efforts continue to clear mosque ruins
Peshawar, Pakistan, Jan 31 (Reuters) – Grieving relatives flooded hospitals in Peshawar, Pakistan, on Tuesday looking for their loved ones, a day after a suicide bomber hit a crowded building in a heavily guarded part of the city. mosque, killing more than 90 people, most of them police officers.
The attack came after a surge in violence against police officers in the restive northwestern city near the Afghan border. No group has claimed responsibility.
“My son, my boy,” an elderly woman yelled as she walked beside an ambulance carrying a coffin as rescuers carried the wounded on stretchers to the hospital’s emergency room.
At least 170 people were injured in the blast, which destroyed the upper floors of the mosque and where hundreds of worshipers were performing midday prayers.
Riaz Mahsud, a senior local government official, said the toll could rise as workers searched through the rubble. “We cut off three main beams of the building and are working on cutting the remaining one,” he told Reuters.
Video footage from the scene showed people rushing to the hospital to identify the dead and treat the wounded.
The mosque is the main place of worship in the area, which houses the offices of the police and counterterrorism services.
Authorities said they did not know how the bombers managed to gain access to the area, which is protected by a series of checkpoints manned by police and military personnel. Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said the bomber was standing in the front row of the prayer hall when he detonated the explosives.
Peshawar is on the edge of Pashtun tribal territory that has been mired in violence for the past two decades. The most active militant group in the region is the Pakistani Taliban, also known as the Pakistani Taliban Movement (TTP), an umbrella group of Sunni and sectarian Islam factions opposed to the government in Islamabad.
TTP has denied responsibility for Monday’s bombing, although it has stepped up attacks since pulling out of a peace deal with the government last year.
The blast came a day after an International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation arrived in Islamabad to negotiate a stalled $7 billion bailout package.
The latest attack was deadlier than claimed by Islamic State militants last March, when they bombed a Shiite mosque, killing at least 58 people.
Reporting by Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar, Writing by Asif Shahzad and Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly, Miral Fahmy and Simon Cameron-Moore
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