Pakistan mosque blast: Security breach or negligence? | News
A suicide bombing at a mosque in Peshawar has drawn attention to the precarious security situation in Pakistan’s tribal area near the Afghan border.
Monday’s blast targeted worshipers during afternoon prayers at a mosque in a heavily fortified police station in the city’s northwest. The attack killed at least 101 people, most of them policemen.
Authorities launched a “thorough investigation” to find out how the attacker got into the heavily guarded area of police lines and whether the terrorist had inside help in carrying out the attack. On Tuesday, police said they had made “major” arrests, but did not provide details.
During a press conference, Moazzam Jha, Inspector General of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Police, acknowledged that there had been a clear “security breach” in the provincial capital despite numerous checkpoints.
“But we also have 1,500 to 2,000 people moving in and out of police lines daily,” Jha said. “These include police officers, common applicants, and the families and relatives of those officers who live on the compound.”
Between 4,000 and 5,000 people live on the territory of the complex.
The commander of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) armed group claimed responsibility for the attack, but a TTP spokesman later denied involvement in the blast.
At least 17 people were killed and dozens injured in a bomb blast at a busy mosque in Pakistan’s Peshawar, according to local authorities.
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The police lines are where government buildings are located, including the governor’s house, the central jail, the provincial assembly, the provincial high court, and the home of the commander of the Peshawar Corps. People entering the territory must go through three checkpoints, and no one is allowed in without the invitation of the residents.
A police officer at Police Lines expressed surprise at the security breach.
“It’s very difficult to get inside because of the strict security checks,” Amanat Ali, 44, told Al Jazeera. “However, construction work is underway on the territory of the complex, so civilian workers come here.”
Another police constable, Imran Khan, who lives at the complex, said it was difficult to bring in family members due to tight security measures.
“We have to report in advance and even then they go through a lot of checks before they let anyone in,” he said.
Akhtar Ali Shah, a security analyst and former inspector general of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police, said that despite being a former high-ranking official, he was never allowed to pass through without being searched.
“Whether I visit impromptu or by invitation, I had to show all my details,” he told Al Jazeera. “The process is even more rigorous for strangers or the public.”
The Shah said that he saw three ways for a bomber to penetrate the fortified area.
“Perhaps someone from the police became a fraud and joined the militants,” he said. “The other thing is that someone who used to work in the police quit the service and then became part of a group that wants to create terror.”
Shah added that a third possibility was that someone from outside befriended the resident and became a regular visitor or stayed there.
The Shah also said that the explosives must have been introduced over time and not all at once, as hinted by his successor Jah at his press conference.
“These criminals know how to make these homemade devices,” said a Peshawar-based analyst. “This is what they are trained for. This way a person didn’t have to bring in explosives, ball bearings, or other equipment to build it in one go. He must have introduced all the parties gradually.
Shah pointed to the absence of a scanning device at the entrance that could potentially detect explosives.
“I didn’t see any scanning devices at the gate,” he said. “But what also needs to be checked is whether sniffer dogs were involved or not. It was for this purpose that I installed a dog unit many years ago, which remains the most reliable method of detection.”