The death toll from a suicide bombing at a mosque in Pakistan's Peshawar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province rose to 100 on Tuesday.
The rescue teams recovered more bodies on Tuesday from the crowded mosque. The number of injured has risen to at least 221.
The terrorist group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has taken responsibility for the blast. The suspected bomber was identified as 37-year-old Mohammed Ayaz from Mohmand district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The TTP was until recently negotiating with the Pakistani government but the talks fell apart and it declared an offensive against the government.
What we know of Peshawar blast?
Authorities say the evidence at the mosque suggests it's a suicide bombing. The TTP has claimed the blast.
The blast occured at around 1:40 pm on Monday at the mosque in Peshawar's high-security Police Lines area. The suicide attacker was present in the front row during the Zuhr (afternoon) prayers when he exploded himself, according to security officials.
Most of the victims were police personnel. At least a deputy superintendent of police, five sub-inspectors and the mosque's prayer leader Maulana Sahibzada Noorul Amin were among the dead.
"The death toll of Peshawar blast has risen to 93 as rescue operation is still underway and debris of mosque is being removed," the state-run Radio Pakistan reported.
According to Police Control Room Peshawar, more than two-hundred injured were brought to the Lady Reading hospital, out of which about one-hundred injured are under treatment in the hospital and the rest have been discharged, it said.
arlier, Spokesperson of the Lady Reading Hospital Muhammad Asim said that 157 injured people were brought to the medical facility after the blast.
“Bodies of 44 people were also transferred to the hospital. At the moment, around 65 injured are getting treatment at the Lady Reading Hospital. Some of the injured are critical, while condition of most is satisfactory,” Asim said, adding that most people among the injured and dead included police officers.
Capital City Police Officer, Peshawar (CCPO) Ejaz Khan, while talking to the media, said that it was too early to say anything as many policemen are still trapped under the rubble.
"Close to 300-400 policemen usually offer prayer at the Zuhr time. If a blast has taken place inside police lines then it is a security lapse but an investigation into the matter can reveal further," said the CCPO.
Four security layers bypassed, 10-12 kg expolsive used
The bomber entered the highly secured mosque inside police lines where four layers of security were in place.
Provincial Police chief Moazzam Jah Ansari said they are investigating the blast and how the bomber entered the highly fortified mosque in the Police Lines area.
He expressed the apprehensions that the bomber might have been residing in the police lines before the blast as there are family quarters too inside the police lines.
Ansari admitted grave security lapses by the police and ordered a comprehensive investigation into the blast.
Talking to the media here Tuesday, he said that the search process for entrance to police lines was limited only to the main gate of the police lines.
He said 10-12 kg explosives were used in the blast. Explosives in parts shifted to police lines as construction activities are in progress these days in police lines.
Attacker could've entered as an official: Report
Capital City Police Officer, Peshawar (CCPO) Ejaz Khan said that there is a possibility that the attacker may have entered the mosque compound in an official vehicle.
"[The] CTD is investigating the case," he said.
A preliminary investigation report of the blast has been sent to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Geo News reported, citing sources.
Sources said that evidence found at the site of the incident indicates that it was a suicide attack. As per the report, the roof tumbled down as the pillars collapsed, causing a lot of damage. A high-level investigation committee has been set up to look into the security lapses, the report said.
Pakistan President Dr Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif have condemned the attack.
"I strongly condemn the heinous & cowardly blast that has taken place in Peshawar mosque. The perpetrators will be found and punished. Condolences to families who have lost an innocent member & prayers for injured. Terrorism must be buried forever," Alvi tweeted.
Shehbaz said the blast inside the mosque proves that those involved in the attack have “nothing to do with Islam.”
“These terrorists are trying to instil fear by targeting those who perform the duty of defending Pakistan,” he said, assuring the people that the coalition government will take strict action against those involved in the attack.
PTI Chairman and ex-premier Imran Khan also took to Twitter to condemn the suicide attack.
"Strongly condemn the terrorist suicide attack in police lines mosque Peshawar during prayers. My prayers & condolences go to victims' families. It is imperative we improve our intelligence gathering & properly equip our police forces to combat the growing threat of terrorism," he wrote.
What is Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan?
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is an umbrella group of extremist Islamist groups that's outlawed in Pakistan. It was formed in 2007.
The TTP seeks the establishment of a hardliner Islamic state in Pakistan after overthrowing the current Pakistani state.
The US National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) notes, "TTP’s stated objectives are the expulsion of Islamabad’s influence in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and neighboring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in Pakistan [and] the implementation of a strict interpretation of sharia throughout Pakistan...TTP leaders also publicly say that the group seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate in Pakistan that would require the overthrow of the Pakistani Government."
The TTP is also aligned witht the Afghan Taliban and has fought the West-backed erstwhile Afghan government. It's also linked to Al Qaeda.
"As an ally of the Afghan Taliban, the TTP also fought the US-backed Afghan government prior to the latter’s defeat in August 2021. The TTP was founded in late 2007 by a group of Pakistani militants who had previously fought in Afghanistan alongside both the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and the group has maintained close ties to both organizations since," notes the think tank Counter Extremism Project (CEP).
The US NCTC notes, "TTP historically maintained close ties to senior al-Qa‘ida leaders, including al-Qa‘ida’s former head of operations for Pakistan."
Some earlier TTP attacks
The TTP has carried out a series of deadly attacks in Pakistan over the years.
Last year, a similar attack inside a Shia mosque in the Kocha Risaldar area in the city killed 63 people.
The TTP also attacked the Pakistani Army headquarters in 2009 and numerous military bases in the past. The TTP also carried out the 2008 bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.
In 2014, the Pakistani Taliban stormed the Army Public School (APS) in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing at least 150 people, including 131 students. The attack sent shockwaves across the world and was widely condemned.
(With PTI inputs)