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Peshawar blast death toll rises to 95 as rescue operation ends | Crime News

A rescue and recovery operation in Pakistan came to an end after a suicide bombing at a mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar killed at least 95 people, most of them policemen.

Kashif Aftab Abbasi, senior chief of police operations in Peshawar, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that more than 225 people had also been injured in the blast a day earlier.

52 injured people remained in the hospital, six in critical condition, Muhammed Asim, spokesman for the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, told Al Jazeera. According to him, the vast majority of those killed were police officers.

The roof of the mosque collapsed in the suicide bombing, and rescuers had to clear piles of rubble to find many of the bodies, authorities said.

Reporting from Peshawar, Al Jazeera’s Kamal Haider said the operation had largely moved into recovery.

“There has been a solemn farewell to the dead police officers, and funerals are taking place throughout the province, because these police officers came from several districts – therefore, there is mourning throughout the province,” he said.


Meanwhile, questions have been raised about how the attacker was able to gain access to the heavily fortified area, which includes the provincial police headquarters and counter-terrorism unit, while wearing a suicide vest.

This followed “credible intelligence reports” on January 21 that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had planned a wave of attacks in Peshawar and wider Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Haider said.

Shortly after the bombing, Omar Mukaram Khorasani, the current head of the Jamaat ul-Ahrar (JuA), a TTP splinter group and a member of the TTP’s governing council, said his group carried out the attack in retaliation for an assassination last year. Former Jamaat ul-Ahrar leader » Omar Khalid Khorasani in Afghanistan, according to the Long War Journal and the South Asian Media Research Institute.

Khorasani “claimed responsibility, saying it was revenge for the killing of his brother in Afghanistan, which he blamed on the Pakistani security forces,” Haider said. “It’s a splinter group and they joined the mainstream TPP back in 2020, so definitely a group within the TPP.”

However, TTP spokesman Mohammad Khorasani distanced the group from the bombing, saying that it was not its policy to target mosques, seminaries and religious sites. He added that individuals involved in such activities could be subject to punitive measures under TPP policy, but did not respond to Khorasani’s claims.

Ghulam Ali, the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said an investigation was underway to determine “how the terrorist entered the mosque.”

“Yes, it was a security breach,” he added.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif visited a hospital in Peshawar on Monday and vowed to take “strong action” against those behind the attack.

“The scale of human tragedy is unimaginable. This is nothing less than an attack on Pakistan,” he tweeted. He expressed condolences to the families of the victims, saying that their pain “cannot be described in words.”

Pakistan has seen a surge in attacks since November, when the TTP broke the truce with the government.

Rescuers search the ruins of a mosque in Peshawar after a suicide bombing.
Rescuers search the ruins of a mosque in Peshawar, Pakistan. [Abid Hussain/Al Jazeera]

In early January, the TTP claimed that one of its members shot and killed two intelligence officers, including the director of the counterterrorism unit of the military intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence. Security officials said on Monday that the shooter involved in the attack was found and killed in a shootout in the country’s northwest, close to the Afghan border.

As a separate group, the TTP is a close ally of the Afghan Taliban.

The TTP waged a 15-year armed uprising against the Pakistani government that included a 2014 attack by a faction of the group on an army school in Peshawar that killed 154 people, mostly children.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the latest explosion “particularly disgusting” because it targeted a place of worship, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The attack comes at a time when cash-strapped Pakistan continues to grapple with a severe economic crisis. He has requested an important $1.1 billion contribution from the International Monetary Fund – part of his $6 billion bailout package – to avoid a default. However, negotiations with the IMF have stalled in recent months.

Abid Hussain of Al Jazeera reported from Peshawar, Pakistan.

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