Peshawar observes day of mourning a day after deadly attack inside Peshawar's high-security area
PESHAWAR: As the death toll from the suicide blast in Peshawar’s strictly-guarded Police Lines area rose to 100 and the tally of the wounded to 221, families Tuesday flocked to hospitals searching for loved ones — most of whom were policemen offering the Zohr prayer when the suicide bomber struck.
The attack was the deadliest in a decade to hit the restive city near the Afghan border and comes amid a surge in violence against law enforcement agencies. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the colossal blast.
"My son, my child," cried an elderly woman walking alongside an ambulance carrying coffins, as rescue workers stretchered the wounded to a hospital emergency unit.
Riaz Mehsud, a senior local government official, said the casualty toll was likely to rise as workers searched through the debris just over 24 hours later.
"So far, 100 bodies have been brought to Lady Reading Hospital," the spokesman for the largest medical facility in the city, Mohammad Asim, said in a statement.
The rescue operation to retrieve bodies from the debris of the mosque has been concluded, said Rescue 1122's spokesperson.
Authorities say they do not know how the bomber managed to breach the military and police checkpoints leading into the Police Lines district, a colonial-era, self-contained encampment in the city centre that is home to middle- and lower-ranking police personnel and their families.
Given the security concerns in Peshawar, the mosque was recently built to allow police to pray without leaving the area. Defence minister Khawaja Asif said the bomber was in the first row in the prayer hall when he struck.
The bombing took place a day before an International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission arrives in Islamabad for talks on a stalled $7 billion bailout.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, taking to Twitter, called for "unity againstanti-Pakistan elements".
"Through their despicable actions, terrorists want to spread fear & paranoia among the masses & reverse our hard-earned gains against terrorism & militancy," the premier wrote requesting to put behind politics during testing times in country.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa caretaker Chief Minister Azam Khan revealed that an inquiry committee has been constituted to identify those who are responsible for this act.
A preliminary investigation report of the blast has been sent to PM Shehbaz, sources told Geo News.
The sources said that evidence found at the incident's site indicates that it was a suicide attack.
As per the report, the roof tumbled down as the pillars collapsed, causing immense damage. The sources added that a high-level investigation committee has been set up to look into security lapses at site.
Speaking during a press conference alongside KP CM Azam Khan, Inspector-General Moazzam Jah Ansari said that about 10-12 kilograms of explosives were used in the blast.
Quoting the report, the sources added, CCTV footage from the Police Lines gate and family quarters is being investigated.
He said that there has been a security lapse and investigations are underway to ascertain the facts. "We are checking one-month's CCTV footage and tracking the facilitators of the bomber," he added.
The provincial police chief said that a joint investigation team (JIT) has been notified and the probe will clear everything soon. Those responsible will be identified and brought to book, he added.
He said that the attacker might have entered the premises as a guest. He added that the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had denied responsibility for the attack last night.
Earlier, the IG said that there are over 2,000 policemen in the Police Lines working with eight different departments.
He said that a large number of civilians visit this place on a daily basis, adding that it also has family quarters. "Construction work was also going on in the locality with workers coming in and going out every day," he added.
KP CM Khan on Monday announced a day of mourning in the province today following the heinous attack.
The national flag will be at half-mast across the province, he said, adding, “The government share the grief of the martyrs’ families.”
The interim CM also assured the aggrieved families that the provincial government would not leave them alone in the aftermath of the tragedy.
The ghastly attack triggered an outpour of reactions from the world community over the loss of lives, with leaders affirming their support for Pakistan against terrorism.
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed his "deepest condolences" over the loss of lives in the Peshawar suicide attack.
"Worshippers at a mosque in Peshawar endured a horrific attack today, which killed and injured many [...] I extend my deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims," he said.
Saudia Arabia also "reiterated its resolve to stand with Pakistan against all kinds of violence, extremism and terrorism" while condemning the heinous act, Radio Pakistan reported.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres extended heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and wished a quick recovery to the wounded.
He reiterated the world's support against terrorism and violent extremism.
Csaba Korosi, president of the UN General Assembly, called the incident a "truly horrid and cowardly attack".
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's (OIC) Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha also condemned the act while reassuring support for the nation to tackle terrorism.
— Additional input from Reuters