Nearly 30 people have been killed in a blast at Police Lines Mosque, Peshawar. The number of wounded has reached 150 according to the latest reports. City authorities told the media that there were probably several others buried under the rubble.
The attack occurred during the afternoon prayers and more than 250 worshippers were present. Mosque’s imam, Noor Ul Amim, is also among the martyrs of the blast.
Videos going viral on social media show the desolation caused by the attack and people clambering out of the rubble.
Who is Behind Police Line Mosque Blast?
Initial reports suggested that the person sitting in the front row (behind the imam) blew himself up. However, this information has not been verified and no group claimed responsibility for the attack.
The mosque is located inside a well-protected compound that includes a Police HQ, and CTD (Counter-Terrorism Department). It raised questions as to how come the attacker penetrated such a highly fortified facility. Authorities believe that the target was the police, as most of the victims were from the force. The police told the media that there were up to 400 officials in the area when the blast happened
It is also not clear what kind of blast it was. The police said that they needed to further investigate but could not rule out a suicide bombing. Moreover, they said their priority at the time was to rescue as many people as possible.
Violence Surging in KPK
Pakistan’s province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) has seen a massive uptick in similar attacks since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan. The capital Peshawar, which shares a border with Afghanistan, has suffered the most from the violence. Shockingly, these attacks often target religious places.
Last year in March, a blast killed more than 60 people in a mosque frequented by Shia Muslims. The Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) claimed responsibility for the attack. The terrorist came near the mosque on a motorbike and opened fire. When the police stopped him, he forced himself into the crowded hall and detonated his suicide vest.
In October 2020, another heartbreaking incident took the lives of 7 children. It happened in a madrassah (religious school) where kids were taking Quran lessons. It was an IED blast with 5 to 6kg of explosives hidden inside a bag.
Even though there is no clear suspect, many have been blaming the banned political extremist group, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for escalating the violence in the region. The militants have been conducting a rebellion against the state of Pakistan for over 10 years. Last year in November they “unilaterally ended a ceasefire” but failed to earn any trust from the masses. According to Pakistani agencies, TTP has launched more than 150 attacks, killing scores of people in 2022 alone.
TTP is ideologically similar to the Afghan Taliban. Pakistani forces fear that the rise of the Afghan Taliban has also empowered the TTP, leading to its resurgence. The extremist outfit wants Pakistan to adopt its ambiguous interpretation of Islamic law, release its arrested members, and reverse the merger of Pakistan’s tribal areas with KPK.