PESHAWAR, March 9: At least five worshippers, including the Imam (prayer leader), were killed and 29 others injured in a bomb blast inside a mosque in Peshawar on Saturday.

The explosive device, planted near the pulpit of the Bilal Masjid, on the city’s residential-cum-commercial Baqar Shah Street, exploded when people were offering Zuhr prayers. The blast left a deep crater in the mosque and damaged walls.

According to AFP, there were about 40 people in the mosque when the bomb went off.

The device carried four kilograms of explosives and was laced with ball bearings.

The mosque belongs to Barelvi sect and houses a madressah.

According to Shafqat Malik, in charge of the bomb disposal squad, the device was detonated through remote control.

The injured were taken to Lady Reading Hospital. Its chief executive, Prof Dr Arshad Javaid, said out of the 32 injured brought to the hospital, three had died.

He said 29 wounded people were under treatment and four of them were in a critical condition.

He said a number of people looking for their loved ones thronged the hospital, causing inconvenience for the administration.

Due to massive movement of onlookers and relatives of the victims, rescuers faced difficulty in shifting the wounded to hospitals. Police had to step in to force the crowd to leave the place.

“We tried to keep people away from the place of the explosion because militants often go for a second explosion.”

The dead were identified as prayer leader Shah Hussain, Bashir Khan, Mohmmad Ilyas, Jan Mohammad and Naveed Khan.

As word got around about the death of the prayer leader, many people broke into tears and started raising slogans.

“I have been saying prayers in this mosque for the past 10 years and never thought that such an ugly incident could happen in a holy place,” said Irfan Khan, a daily wager who suffered multiple wounds.

Fayyaz Khan, another injured, said he was in the third row during the prayers. “I fell on the ground when the blast rocked the mosque.

The injured started screaming and a thick column of black smoke engulfed the place of worship.”

The mosque had no security guards or volunteers to search people at its gate, he added.

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf condemned the bombing and said in a statement: “Such acts of terror cannot weaken the nation’s resolve to wipe out terrorism from our society.”

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