A suicide bomber on a Shia mosque in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar left at least 30 people dead and 80 injured on Friday.
Pakistan shooting, March 4, 2022
Scotsmen ‘one by one’
Rescuers frantically removed the dead and injured from the scene shortly after a witness saw the attacker enter the mosque for Friday prayers.
The gunman opened “fire with a pistol” and selected the worshipers “one by one”. He then “blew himself up,” said Ali Asghar.
The attack comes on the first day of a cricket test match in Rawalpindi – about 90 miles to the east – between Pakistan and Australia, who have not visited the country for nearly a quarter of a century for security reasons.
Muhammad Ali Saif, a spokesman for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government, told AFP “more than 30” were killed and about 80 others were injured in the explosion near Kocha Risaldar in Peshawar, a similar distance west of the capital Islamabad.
“It was a suicide attack,” he said.
One AFP reporter saw body parts strewn at the scene, where desperate relatives were stopped by police. The explosion shattered the windows of nearby buildings.
“I saw a man shooting at two police officers before entering the mosque. Seconds later, I heard a big bang,” said witness Zahid Khan.
Peshawar Police Chief Muhammad Ijaz Khan told AFP the death toll could exceed 30 and two attackers were involved.
He said two police officers were shot dead at the entrance to the mosque.
“One police officer died at the scene, while the other was seriously injured,” he said.
Pakistani shooting ‘strongly condemned’
Muhammad Asim Khan, a spokesman for Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, said: “We have declared a state of emergency in the hospitals and more are being injured”.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s office said he “strongly condemned the attack”.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the apparent suicide bombing.
Peshawar – just 50 kilometers from the porous border with Afghanistan – was a frequent target of militants in early 2010, but security has improved greatly in recent years.
Pakistan’s Sunni majority has recently fought a resurgence of its domestic Taliban branch, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Shia target of Islamic State group
Last year a month-long truce failed and fears are that the TTP — which has historically targeted Shia Muslims — has been encouraged by the success of the Afghan Taliban.
Shias in the region have also been targeted by the regional iteration of the Islamic State group, Islamic State of Khorasan (ISK).
At least 31 people were killed in a suicide attack on a busy market in Peshawar in 2018.
At least 88 people died and hundreds were injured a year earlier when a suicide bomber blew himself up amid crowds of devotees at a respected Sufi shrine in southern Sindh province.
Lehaz Ali © Agence France-Presse