At least 100 killed in Pakistan mosque bombing

The Pakistani Taliban denied responsibility for the attack in Peshawar, one of the worst in months in the cash-strapped South Asian nation.

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100 killed in Pakistan mosque

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — The death toll from a suicide bombing at a mosque in northwest Pakistan has risen to at least 100, a hospital spokesperson said Tuesday, a day after one of the worst attacks in months in the cash-strapped South Asian nation.

Mohammad Asim, a spokesman for the Lady Reading Hospital, said the death toll had reached 100 early Tuesday.

Earlier Riaz Khan Mahsud, commissioner of the Peshawar division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said bodies were still being recovered from the rubble of the mosque where a bomber set off explosives Monday during afternoon prayer, causing the roof to cave in. The mosque is inside a walled compound housing the Peshawar police headquarters, and officials said most of the victims were police officers.

Deputy commissioner Shafiullah Khan said 177 other people had been injured and that 57 of them were still hospitalized, some in critical condition.

About 300 worshippers were in the mosque at the time of the blast, said Ijaz Khan, the Peshawar police chief.

“A portion of the building collapsed, and some of the people are alive but stranded there,” he said Monday. “Our teams are engaged in cutting the steel to recover them.”

It was unclear how the bomber was able to get past security at the compound, as well as in a larger high-security zone that surrounds it. Khan said officials had confirmed that the bomber was not a member of the police force.

Sarbakaf Mohmand, a commander of the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter. But spokesperson Mohammad Khurasani later denied the group was involved.

“As per our principles, carrying out attacks in mosques, seminaries and other holy places cannot be defended and the perpetrators are liable to be punished,” he said in a statement. He did not address the TTP commander’s earlier claim of responsibility.

The Pakistani Taliban, who are separate from but closely allied with the Afghan Taliban, have waged an insurgency in Pakistan for the past 15 years. They are especially active in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a province bordering Afghanistan where Peshawar is the capital.

Militant attacks in Pakistan, particularly on security forces and police, have increased since November, when the Pakistani Taliban ended a monthslong cease-fire with the government.

The bombing at the mosque in Peshawar has been widely condemned both in Pakistan and internationally.

“The sheer scale of the human tragedy is unimaginable,” Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Twitter. “This is no less than an attack on Pakistan.”

A wounded policeman is treated at a hospital a day after the mosque blast in Peshawar. Abdul Majeed / AFP – Getty Images

The mosque attack is at least the third disaster in Pakistan since Sunday. A bus crash killed more than 40 people in the southern province of Baluchistan, and 30 students were killed when their boat capsized on a lake in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government declared Tuesday a day of mourning for those killed in the mosque attack and the boat accident.

Tuesday also brings the start of talks in Islamabad, the capital, between government officials and the International Monetary Fund on reviving a $1.1 billion loan program. Pakistan, a heavily indebted country of more than 230 million people, faces an economic crisis worsened by catastrophic floods last summer, with its currency, the rupee, hitting a record low.

Last week, a breakdown in the power grid left much of the country without electricity for the better part of a day during the coldest time of year. Officials said they would upgrade the network to reduce the number of blackouts, which happen regularly.

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