At least 59 people died in a suicide attack in a mosque in north-west Pakistan. Around 150 believers were injured in the attack in the city of Peshawar, said hospital representatives from the German Press Agency. The attack therefore occurred in a high-security zone, which also includes many police buildings.
Initially, no group claimed responsibility for the attack. At the end of last year, however, the Pakistani Taliban - which are independent of the Islamist Taliban government in neighboring Afghanistan - canceled a ceasefire with the government in Islamabad. Since then, they have claimed several attacks for themselves.
A police officer who survived the attack during midday prayers told Pakistani TV station Geo News: "It was a powerful explosion. There was smoke everywhere." Rescuers tried to free the people trapped under the rubble. At the time of the attack, around 300 believers are said to have stayed there.
"Everyone is afraid here"
The attack reminded an officer in the city of conflicts of the past. "God forbid, I'm afraid those horrible days are back," said Amjad Khan. "Everyone is afraid here."
After the attack, hospitals called for blood donations. The majority of the victims were police officers, it said from the clinics. It was one of the deadliest attacks against Pakistan's security forces in recent years. In Pakistan, the vast majority of the population of more than 230 million people is Muslim. About two million people live in the city of Peshawar.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the attack during a visit to a local hospital. "Terrorists want to create fear by targeting those who have a duty to defend Pakistan," he said. Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah announced an investigation. The German ambassador in Pakistan, Alfred Grannas, also condemned the attack. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed his condolences to the bereaved. "Terrorism, for any reason, anywhere, is unjustifiable," Blinken wrote on Twitter.
The United Nations condemned the attack "in the strongest possible terms". "It is particularly despicable that such an attack took place in a place of worship," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Freedom of religion, freedom of belief and the ability to worship in peace are fundamental human rights.
Peschwar has been the target of deadly attacks in the past
Peshawar in the border province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was a region of unrest in Pakistan for a long time - after a military offensive against Islamist terrorist groups in 2014, things have calmed down. In recent years, however, there have been more attacks there. It was not until March 2022 that an IS terrorist militia blew himself up in Peshawar, killing more than 60 people.
The tense security situation in Pakistan has also been felt in the capital Islamabad in recent months. There were numerous checkpoints and increased military presence in the metropolis.
The TTP is an umbrella organization of militant Islamist groups that is said to have several thousand fighters. The military expelled them to Afghanistan between 2008 and 2014. Since the Afghan Taliban took power in Kabul, the TTP has regrouped in its former strongholds on the Afghan border.