A blast inside a mosque shook Peshawar’s Police Lines area on Monday, with officials saying that at least 59 people were killed and 157 were injured.
Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) spokesman Mohammad Asim confirmed the number of casualties as efforts to rescue those trapped under the rubble continued into the night.
Peshawar Commissioner Riaz Mehsood said a rescue operation was under way inside the mosque as a number of people were buried under the rubble.
“An emergency has been imposed at hospitals across the city and injured persons are being provided the best medical facilities,” the senior official said.
The outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the blast.
Speaking to the media, Peshawar Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Muhammad Ijaz Khan said that the roof of the mosque collapsed after the blast. “A number of jawans are still stuck under the rubble and rescuers are trying to pull them out.”
He said the main hall of the mosque — which had a capacity of 250 to 300 people — had collapsed but the rest of the building was still intact.
In response to a question about the nature of the blast, the official said: “The smell of explosives has been detected but it is too early to say anything substantial.”
Khan said between 300 to 400 police personnel were present in the area at the time of the blast. “It is apparent that a security lapse occurred,” the CCPO told the media.
He added that the bodies and injured persons had been moved to the LRH.
Standing alongside Khan, KP Governor Haji Ghulam Ali condemned the blast and urged the people of Peshawar to donate blood for the injured, saying that it would be a “huge favour for the police”.
Former KP chief minister Mahmood Khan also called on PTI workers in Peshawar and adjoining areas to reach LRH to donate blood to the victims.
PM, COAS visit Peshawar
PM Shehbaz and Chief of Army Staff Asim Munir visited Peshawar and were briefed on the blast. Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah were also present.
During the visit, the premier was given a briefing by the Peshawar Corps Commander while the provincial police chief presented an initial report on the blast. The prime minister was also shown CCTV footage of the blast.
PM Shehbaz later visited LRH to inquire about the injured.
Taking to Twitter after his visit, the prime minister said: “Just returned from Peshawar. The sheer scale of the human tragedy is unimaginable.
“This is no less than an attack on Pakistan. The nation is overwhelmed by a deep sense of grief. I have no doubt terrorism is our foremost national security challenge,” he said.
“While the pain of the grieving families cannot be described in words, I express my heartfelt condolences and most sincere sympathies. My message to the perpetrators of today’s despicable incident is that you can’t underestimate the resolve of our people,” he said.
The police headquarters in Peshawar is in one of the most tightly controlled areas of the city, housing intelligence and counter-terrorism bureaus, and is next door to the regional secretariat.
Dawn.com’s correspondent at the blast site said the explosion took place at around 1:40pm as Zuhr prayers were being offered. He said personnel of the police, army and bomb disposal squad were present inside the mosque.
The reporter said a portion of the building had collapsed and several people — especially those standing in the front row during the prayers — were believed to be under it.
Visuals run on television channels showed people gathered around the collapsed wall of the mosque. Meanwhile, roads leading to the Red Zone — the area housing Governor’s House, Chief Minister Secretariat, Corps Headquarters and important defence installations — were closed down.
A witness told Dawn.com that he was performing wudhu in the mosque’s compound when a powerful explosion threw him onto the street. “My ears were blocked and I was knocked unconscious.”
Another witness said that the windows of the building adjacent to the mosque shattered because of the intensity of the blast.
Shahid Ali, a policeman who survived, said the explosion took place seconds after the imam started prayers. “I saw black smoke rising to the sky. I ran out to save my life,” the 47-year-old told AFP.
“The screams of the people are still echoing in my mind,” he added. “People were screaming for help.”__Dawn.com