Death toll from attack on Shia mosque in Peshawar rises to 62

Published March 5, 2022
People attend funeral prayers for the victims of a suicide bombing in Peshawar late on Friday night. — AP
People attend funeral prayers for the victims of a suicide bombing in Peshawar late on Friday night. — AP

The death toll from the attack on a Shia mosque in Peshawar's Koocha Risaldar area a day earlier rose to 62 on Saturday after five of the injured succumbed to their wounds, a spokesperson for the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) confirmed.

On Friday, 57 people, including a policeman, lost their lives and 194 others were injured when a suicide attacker detonated himself inside the mosque located in Peshawar's old city neighbourhood.

In a statement issued today, LRH spokesperson Muhammad Asim said 37 of those injured are admitted to the hospital, of whom five are in the intensive care unit (ICU) in critical condition.

Another injured person has been discharged, he added.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police and investigation agencies have identified all three suspects connected to the attack and closed in on them.

In a video message shared on Twitter, Ahmed said the police and investigation agencies had done a “splendid” job, adding that police would reach those suspects in one or two days.

“There are seven bodies beyond recognition including two amputated feet which we believe are of the bomber,” Peshawar police chief Muhammad Ijaz Khan told AFP.

“We are trying to ascertain identity of the bomber through DNA testing.” He said the death toll had risen to 62 — including seven children aged below 10.

Khan said officials were checking the biometric data of people who had recently crossed into Pakistan from Afghanistan, where the militant Islamic State group have previously planned attacks.

KP police chief Moazzam Jah Ansari said on Friday that the lone attacker, who was on foot, first killed one of the police guards and then wounded the other before entering the mosque's hall, some 25 yards away, where he detonated the explosives attached to his body in the third row of worshippers.

Police and witnesses said a man dressed in a black shalwar kameez shot the guards manning the main gate located at some distance from Jamia Masjid Koocha Risaldar, and then entered the mosque where he blew himself up amongst nearly 150 worshippers who had congregated for Friday prayers.

Jamil Khan, one of the policemen standing guard at the gate, was gunned down while his colleague was injured in the subsequent blast.

“The attack took place just when people were preparing for the main Friday congregation,” Jah added. He said police forensic teams recovered 150 ball bearings from the hall.

“At least six kilogrammes of explosives were used in the attack,” he claimed, adding there was no threat alert for February and March.

Strongly condemning the bombing, President Dr Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed grief and sorrow over the loss of innocent lives. In their separate messages, they also extended condolences to the families of the deceased, while the prime minister ordered an inquiry into the incident.

Late on Friday night, AFP reported that the militant Islamic State group had claimed the suicide bombing in Peshawar.

“Today ... an Islamic State fighter succeeded in assaulting a Shia mosque in Peshawar,” the group said on its Amaq propaganda site.

Even before the claim came to light, security officials were of the view that the attack bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State group's Khorasan chapter.

A neighbourhood in mourning

Koocha Risaldar, a largely Shia neighbourhood in the old city, has witnessed many sectarian attacks in the past as well.

It is located just a stone's throw away from Qissa Khwani, the street of storytellers, in the heart of the old city.

Moving scenes were seen in Qissa Khwani on Friday as the people shifted the injured to the hospital.

Women mourned their dead relatives in the narrow streets, while pall-bearers carried coffins of their kin to homes from the nearby Lady Reading Hospital. Almost all of them were in tears as relatives and friends tried to calm distressed relatives.

Soon after the news of the bomb blast spread in the area, the people, including women, rushed towards the mosque in large numbers to inquire about the well-being of their family members, who had gone there to offer Jumma prayer. The panicked people ran in the narrow alleys leading to the place of the terrorist attack.

The situation was no different in the Lady Reading Hospital. The people moved among the bodies and injured identifying their relatives.

Every house located in the vicinity of imambargah and in the nearby streets was in mourning as the residents either lost one or two members or had members seriously injured in the bomb blast.

The last major terrorist attack was also carried out in a mosque in Dir Colony on Oct 27, 2020, killing eight students and injuring around 120 injured as a timed device went off on the premises, where a large number of seminarians were attending a class.

Friday's attack was the biggest terrorist activity in the city.



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