The Additional Inspector General of Police in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Shaukat Abbas, said on Friday that the Counter Terrorism Department has apprehended a key suspect linked to the Peshawar mosque bombing that killed dozens in January as he attributed the attack to a splinter faction of the proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
On Jan 30, a powerful explosion ripped through a mosque in Peshawar’s Red Zone area where between 300 and 400 people — mostly police officers — had gathered for prayers. The suicide blast blew away the wall of the prayer hall and an inner roof and claimed 84 lives.
The outlawed TTP had initially claimed responsibility for the attack. However, it later distanced itself from it but sources earlier indicated that it might have been the handiwork of some local faction of the outlawed group.
Addressing a press conference today, the senior KP police official asserted that the TTP’s group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar was behind the incident. “The bomber who carried out the attack is known as ‘Qari’ in the TTP circles,” the official added.
He said that the suspect detained by law enforcement officials was a “backup suicide bomber” who would have been used as a secondary option during the attack in case the first bomber failed to detonate his vest.
The suspect was identified as Imtiaz Khan and was arrested by the CTD with the help of law enforcement agencies, according to the additional IG.
The senior official declined to identify the place from where the suspect was arrested. However, he reiterated that the alleged bomber got training in the Kunduz area of Afghanistan.
Furthermore, he mentioned that law enforcement had identified a “mastermind” and a “handler” associated with the bombers, and they were currently making efforts to apprehend them.
The mastermind was identified as Ghaffar alias Salman. “We have found that Ghaffar was in contact with the suicide bomber on the day of the incident. We are trying to apprehend the handler and mastermind of the attack.”
Pakistan has witnessed a surge in TTP violence since peace talks between the militant group and the government broke down in the latter half of last year. The TTP formally ended the ceasefire on November 28 and since then 58 attacks have been claimed by the group in which 170 people died.
Many of these attacks were planned and directed by the TTP leadership based in Afghanistan, according to a Dawn report.