Peshawar mosque blast toll mounts to 100

Wednesday 01st February 2023 05:30 EST

Peshawar: The death toll has risen to 100 people after a mosque suicide bombing which targeted policemen in the city of Peshawar in Pakistan. The mosque is within a high-security zone and an investigation is under way into how the bomber got in. The attack, one of Pakistan's bloodiest in years, has left scores more injured.

A Pakistani Taliban claim to have carried out the bombing was later denied by the militant group, which blamed it on a splinter faction. In the past the Pakistani Taliban have refrained from claiming some attacks on mosques, schools or markets because they say they are at war with security forces and not the Pakistani people, but many doubt such denials.

On Tuesday, rescuers scrambled to retrieve worshippers buried in the rubble, pulling out nine people alive but recovering more of the dead. No-one remained trapped, local officials said.

"Terrorists want to create fear by targeting those who perform the duty of defending Pakistan," said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. He declared a national day of mourning.

The BBC saw ambulances racing in and out of the compound every few minutes. More than 50 remain wounded, some of them critical.

Meanwhile, funerals have been carried out for more than 20 police officers, their coffins draped with the Pakistan flag. Most of the dead were members of the security forces.

Hundreds packed the funeral of Irfan Ullah, a police inspector killed in the explosion. Only a few days before, he had survived another attack - an ambush where some of his colleagues died. Armed security guarded the prayers. Some attending cried quietly.

Between 300 and 400 police officers had been in the area at the time, Peshawar police chief Muhammad Ijaz Khan earlier told local media. The mosque is in one of the most heavily controlled areas of the city, which includes police headquarters and intelligence and counter-terrorism offices. On Tuesday, local media lined the road outside the gates - the closest that security would allow.

Sharif said those behind the attack had "nothing to do with Islam". He added: "The entire nation is standing united against the menace of terrorism."

The Pakistan Taliban ended a ceasefire in November, and violence has been on the rise in the country since. It is separate to the Afghan Taliban but shares the same hard-line Islamist ideology.

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