PESHAWAR: The death toll in a mosque blast in Peshawar on Monday rose to 61 after the recovery of more bodies from the site, a hospital spokesman said.
“So far we have received 61 dead bodies and 60 wounded persons are receiving medical treatment. Dozens more wounded were sent to two other hospitals of the city,” Muhammad Asim Khan, spokesperson for the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar told.
Peshawar bleeds again as a suicide bomber blew himself up during Zuhr prayers at local Police Lines mosque, martyring including policemen and wounding 147 others on Monday.
According to police sources, the suicide bomber stood in the first row in the mosque while Zuhr prayer around 1:40 p.m. Imam (prayer leader) of the mosque was also martyred in the suicide blast. Witnesses and officials said that at least 200 people were inside the mosque when the incident took place.
The explosion was so powerful that a portion of the mosque collapsed. It also smashed nearby window panes of the buildings adjacent to Peshawar’s police lines. The area is located in a highly secure area of Peshawar with Police Secretariat and PTCL Colony all located nearby.
To access the area, people have to cross several police check posts. With no commercial area located within the Police Lines, only people with authorized access can enter the area.
Soon after the suicide blast, the Rescue 1122 teams rushed to the site and started evacuating the bodies trapped under the debris. Injured people were shifted to nearby Lady Reading Hospital (LRH). Heavy machinery was used to recover the bodies and injured trapped under the rubble.
The KP Health Department imposed emergency in all three major hospitals of Peshawar.
Police also shifted the injured to hospital in police mobile vans, motorbikes and other available means of transportation.
After the powerful blast, personnel of Police and law enforcement agencies cordoned off the crime scene and started collecting evidence. Muhammad Asim, the hospital spokesman, said a large number of injured had been brought to the medical facility.
He added that the injured included police officials. “Some of the injured are in critical condition but most are stable,” said the hospital spokesperson, adding that more injured are being shifted to the hospital.
More than 15 injured were in critical condition, the hospital sources said. It was feared a large number of people was still trapped beneath the rubble as the roof of the mosque had caved in after the powerful suicide blast.
The last major incident of such a nature had taken place in Peshawar last year, when a suicide blast inside a Shia mosque in Kocha Risaldar area claimed 63 lives. Videos and pictures shared by social media users showed horrific scenes as the injured drenched in blood were shifted to medical centres for first aid.
Awful movements seen in LRH Peshawar, as the hospital administration appealed for blood donations for the injured people.
Earlier, Speaking to the media, Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Peshawar Muhammad Ijaz Khan said that the roof of the mosque collapsed after the blast.
“A number of jawans are still beneath the rubble and rescuers are trying to pull them out.”
“The smell of explosives has been detected but it is too early to say anything substantial,” he said.
Khans said between 300 and 400 police officials were present in the area at the time of the blast. “It is apparent that a security lapse occurred,” the CCPO told the media. He added that the bodies and injured persons have been moved to the LRH.
Standing alongside Khan, KP Governor Haji Ghulam Ali condemned the blast and urged the people of Peshawar to donate blood for the injured, saying that it would be a “huge favour for the police”. KP caretaker Chief Minister Muhammad Azam Khan; meanwhile, strongly condemned the blast and directed the hospital administrations to provide the best treatment to the victims. He also prayed for eternal peace to the martyred and fortitude for their families, besides early recovery of the injured.
In a statement issued later in the day, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif strongly condemned the blast and said that the attackers behind the incident have nothing to do with Islam. “Terrorists want to create fear by targeting those who perform the duty of defending Pakistan,” he said.
The premier paid tribute to the martyrs and promised that their sacrifices would not be in vain. “The entire nation is standing united against the menace of terrorism.” PM Shehbaz also said that a comprehensive strategy would be adopted to counter the deteriorating law and order situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the federal government will help provinces in increasing their anti-terrorism capacity.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, while condemning the attack, said that “terrorist incidents before local and general elections were meaningful”.
A tweet by PPP’s media cell quoted Bilawal as saying that strict action would be taken against terrorists, their patrons and their facilitators.
Bilawal stressed that the National Action Plan was the only solution to the issue of terrorism and promised that it would be “implemented strictly”.
He also called party workers to donate their blood to save the lives of the injured.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan also strongly condemned the “terrorist suicide attack” in Peshawar and expressed sympathies with the families of the victims.
“It is imperative we improve our intelligence gathering and properly equip our police forces to combat the growing threat of terrorism,” he added.
Ex-human rights minister Shireen Mazari termed the bomber’s “access to a central area of the provincial capital” as another “intelligence failure”.
“Our police are frontline defenders against terrorists, especially in urban areas and need better resources, including equipment,” she added.
Former KP chief minister Mahmood Khan also called on PTI workers in Peshawar and adjoining areas to reach LRH to donate blood to the victims.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has said the Peshawar mosque blast was a ‘suicide attack’. Rana Sanaullah speaking to a private news channel condemned the blast. He said that as per the initial investigation report, the blast was a ‘suicide attack’.
He also feared a rise in the number of casualties and the added majority of the martyrs and the injured are policemen.
The political leadership of the country including Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Former president, Asif Ali Zardari, former prime minister Imran Khan, former NA speaker Asad Qaiser and others have strongly condemned the terror attack and vowed to give exemplary punishment to those involved in it.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023