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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Suicide bombing tears through Pakistan mosque, killing dozens


By SALMAN MASOOD


A powerful suicide bombing Monday ripped through a mosque frequented by police officers in a highly secured part of the city of Peshawar, killing at least 44 people and wounding nearly 160, police and hospital officials said, in the worst attack in the country in months.


There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the attack broke a period of relative calm in Peshawar, the capital of the restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in northwestern Pakistan. The northwest has been the site of several attacks on police and military targets in recent months, especially in areas that straddle the border with Afghanistan, and the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for them.


“It was a deafening explosion, and I fell on the ground,” said Shabbir Afridi, 40, a government employee who was standing near the mosque at the time of the attack. “When I ran toward the mosque, I saw dust and bodies everywhere.”


The mosque was nearly full, with more than 300 worshippers filling the rows when the blast struck in Police Lines, a heavily guarded neighborhood that is home to several important government and military buildings. An office of the counterterrorism department is nearby, and officials said they were investigating how the suicide bomber managed to breach several security checkpoints to reach the mosque.


The roof caved in from the impact, trapping people under the debris.


“Most of the people are still trapped under the rubble. We fear that the number of casualties could increase,” said Akbar Khan, an official of the Edhi Foundation, a charity that runs a rescue service.


At least 157 people were wounded, according to hospital officials, many of them rushed to the nearby Lady Reading Hospital, a state-run medical facility, which was a scene of chaos. Doctors were struggling to move the many wounded to operating rooms while relatives thronged the hospital, frantically searching for information about their loved ones.


The hospital was put on alert, more medical personnel were called in and people were asked to donate blood for the injured, according to hospital officials.


The last terrorist attack on Peshawar was also a suicide bombing that targeted a mosque in March and killed more than 60 people. The Islamic State group’s regional affiliate, Islamic State Khorasan, or ISIS-K, claimed responsibility.

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