Pakistan buries mosque blast victims as death toll passes 90
Bodies were still being pulled on Tuesday from the wreckage of a horrific mosque blast that targeted police officers in the secured Police Lines compound in Peshawar, killing at least 93 people and wounding 221 more. (REUTERS)
Riaz Mahsud, a senior government official, said the casualty toll was likely to rise as workers searched through the debris. Overnight, at least nine bodies were recovered as rescuers sifted through the rubble of the mosque’s collapsed wall and roof.
“We cut three main beams of the building and efforts are underway to cut the remaining one,” he told Reuters.
Bilal Ahmad Faizi, a spokesperson for the 1122 rescue organisation, told AFP: “… we are not hopeful of reaching any survivors.”
Live video footage showed people scrambling to hospitals to identify the dead and tend to the wounded.
According to reports, a suicide bomber detonated explosives during the afternoon prayers and the roof of the mosque collapsed on those inside.
Security agencies say they do not know how the bomber managed to enter the area, which is protected by a series of checkpoints manned by police and military personnel. Defence minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said the bomber was standing in the first row in the prayer hall when he detonated his explosives.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, amid a worsening security situation in the country.
The police headquarters in Peshawar is in one of the most tightly controlled neighbourhoods of the city, housing intelligence and counter-terrorism bureaus, and is next door to the regional secretariat.
Provinces around the country announced they were on high alert after the blast, with checkpoints ramped up and extra security forces deployed, while in Islamabad, snipers were deployed on buildings and at city entrance points.
The drastic security breach came on the day United Arab Emirates (UAE) President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan had been due to visit Islamabad, although the trip was cancelled at the last minute due to “bad weather.”
Pakistan is also hosting an International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation as it works towards unlocking a vital bailout loan to prevent a looming default.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday condemned the blast as “abhorrent”, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken extended his condolences for the “horrific attack”.
The authorities have vowed to investigate the bombing and bring the perpetrators to justice.
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