The death toll from the previous day’s suicide bombing at a mosque in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday jumped to 74, police and a rescue official said, after rescuers pulled 15 more bodies from the rubble.
They are still clearing the rubble after the roof of the mosque collapsed in the aftermath of the attack, said Bilal Faizi, the chief rescue officer.
He said that the bombing that took place in the northwestern city of Peshawar also resulted in the injury of more than 150 people. It was not clear how the suicide bomber managed to infiltrate the compound, which is surrounded by a wall in a high-security area with other government buildings.
Also, mourners on Tuesday were burying the bombing victims in various cemeteries in Peshawar and other places.
Sarbakaf Mohmand, a leader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, also known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, claimed responsibility for the attack in a Twitter post.
Hours later, however, the movement’s spokesman, Mohammad Khorasani, distanced the group from the bombing, saying that its policy is not to target mosques, religious institutes and religious places, adding that those who engage in such actions may face punitive measures under the movement’s policy. His statement did not address the reason why the leader of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing.
“The sheer scale of the human tragedy is unimaginable. This is nothing short of an attack on Pakistan,” Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif tweeted.who visited the wounded in Peshawar and vowed to “take tough action” against those behind the bombing. He expressed his condolences to the families of the victims, saying that their pain “cannot be described in words.”
Pakistan, which is predominantly Sunni Muslim, has seen a surge in militant attacks since November, when the Pakistani Taliban ended a ceasefire with government forces.
Earlier this month, the Pakistani Taliban claimed that one of its members shot and killed two intelligence officers, including the director of the counter-terrorism wing of the military-based spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence. Security officials said on Monday that the gunman was tracked down and killed in a shootout in the country’s northwest, near the Afghan border.
The Pakistani Taliban is separate from, but a close ally of, the Afghan Taliban. The Pakistani Taliban have waged an insurgency in Pakistan for the past 15 years, seeking stricter enforcement of Islamic laws, the release of its members detained by the government, and a reduction of Pakistan’s military presence in the areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that it has long used as its base. .
Monday’s attack on a Sunni mosque inside the police headquarters was one of the deadliest attacks on security forces in recent years.
More than 300 worshipers were praying at the mosque with more approaching when the attacker detonated his explosive vest. Many were injured when the roof fell, according to Zafar Khan, a police officer, and rescuers had to clear piles of debris to reach worshipers still trapped under the rubble.
Mina Gul, who was in the mosque when the bomb exploded, said he did not know how he escaped unharmed. The 38-year-old police officer said he heard screams and screams after the explosion.
Peshawar is the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the Pakistani Taliban has a strong presence, and the city has been the scene of frequent attacks from militants.
The Afghan Taliban seized power in neighboring Afghanistan in August 2021 as US and NATO forces withdraw from the country after 20 years of war.
The Pakistani government’s truce with the TTP ended as the country was still facing unprecedented floods that claimed 1,739 lives, destroyed more than two million homes and at one point submerged up to a third of the country.
The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it was “sad to learn that many people lost their lives and many others were injured in an explosion in a mosque in Peshawar”, and denounced the attacks on worshipers as contrary to the teachings of Islam.
Condemnations were also issued from the Saudi Embassy in Islamabad, as well as from the US Embassy, adding that “the United States stands with Pakistan in condemning all forms of terrorism.”
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the bombing as “particularly abhorrent” to target a place of worship.
Cash-strapped Pakistan is facing a severe economic crisis It is seeking a crucial $1.1 billion installment from the International Monetary Fund – part of the $6 billion bailout package – to avoid default. Talks with the International Monetary Fund about reviving the bailout have stalled in recent months.
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan described the bombing as a “suicide terrorist attack”. He tweeted: “My prayers and condolences are with the families of the victims. It is imperative that we improve our intelligence gathering and adequately equip our police forces to combat the growing threat of terrorism.”
Sharif’s government came to power in April after Khan was ousted in a vote of no confidence in Parliament. Khan has since campaigned for snap elections, claiming his ouster was illegal and part of a US-backed conspiracy. Washington and Sharif rejected Khan’s claims.
Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed.