Scores Dead in Pakistan After Mosque Attack

PESHAWAR, Pakistan – At least 57 people were killed and more than 100 wounded on Friday after an explosion tore through a Shiite mosque in Peshawar, in northwestern Pakistan, according to the police and doctors at the city’s main hospital.

Police officials said that at least one gunman on a motorcycle had killed two police guards before entering the mosque and detonating what appeared to be a suicide vest.

The attack was one of the deadliest in years to hit Peshawar, a city of roughly two million people near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. In 201

4, nine Taliban gunmen killed more than 140 people at the Army Public School and Degree College there.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the blast, but Pakistani intelligence officials said on Friday that the attack was most likely carried out by the region’s Islamic State affiliate, Islamic State Khorasan, or ISIS-K.

The Islamic State has claimed several previous attacks in Pakistan but this would be the biggest and deadliest yet.

“We are trying to figure out and determine what happened,” Moazzam Jah, the provincial police chief, said Friday. The Peshawar police chief, Ejaz Khan, said the police had recovered pellets, empty bullet cartridges and pieces of the gun used in the initial attacks.

Mr. Khan said there appeared to have been two assailants, both of whom had worn and detonated explosives. “We have secured CCTV footage and will be examining it very closely,” he said.

Area residents said they heard a huge blast in the main mosque in Kocha Risaldar, a largely Shiite neighborhood that is part of centuries-old Qissa Khawani Bazaar, a former trading hub.

The attack on Friday broke a relative lull in violence in Peshawar, which has borne the brunt of Taliban militancy in recent years. Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, the interior minister, called the attack an attempt to “disrupt peace and tranquility of the provincial capital,” according to state-run news media.

The police cordoned off the mosque while rescue workers took the dead and wounded to the city’s main hospital, Lady Reading.

A spokesman for the hospital, Muhammad Asim Khan, said that 10 of those people were “in very critical condition.”

Islamic State Khorasan announced its formation in eastern Afghanistan in 2015 and was initially led by former members of the Pakistani Taliban.

In May 2019, ISIS-K created a separate Pakistani chapter, which has carried out attacks in Baluchistan Province, targeting ethnic Hazara Shiites. In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, of which Peshawar is the capital, security forces have accused the terrorist group of targeting members of other religious minorities, including Sikhs and a Christian priest.

Last fall, ISIS-K carried out high-profile bombings at two Shiite mosques in Afghanistan, killing and wounding dozens.

The Afghan Taliban, after their rise to power in August, launched a series of operations against the group, possibly prompting its fighters to shift their operations into Pakistan, the intelligence officials said.

A second mosque attack on Friday, in Paktia Province in Afghanistan, southwest of Peshawar, killed at least three people and wounded more than two dozen after an explosive device was detonated, according to a Taliban spokesman.

Ismail Khan reported from Peshawar, and Salman Masood from Islamabad. Safiullah Padshah contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan.

Leave a Reply