A suicide blast inside a Shia mosque shook Peshawar’s Kocha Risaldar area on Friday, with officials saying that at least 56 people were killed and 194 were injured.
Mohammad Asim, a spokesperson for Lady Reading Hospital (LRH), confirmed the casualties, adding that some of the injured were in critical condition.
Officials, who termed the incident a suicide attack, initially said that two attackers were involved. However, CCTV footage released later in the day showed a lone attacker clad in a black shalwar kameez reaching the mosque in the city’s Qissa Khwani Bazaar on foot and brandishing a pistol.
He opened fire on police personnel deployed outside the main entrance for security before running inside. The attacker also opened fire on a man who tried to stop him and managed to enter the mosque, where worshippers had gathered for Friday prayers, after which an explosion took place.
Speaking to the media, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Inspector General of Police Moazzam Jah Ansari said two police officials were deputed at the mosque for security.
He said that one constable was martyred, while another police official was in critical condition. The senior police officer said that around five to six kilogrammes of explosive material was used, adding that there were no prior reports about the attack.
Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Peshawar Mohammad Ijaz Khan confirmed the chain of events, adding that one police official was martyred in the gunfight outside the mosque.
However, talking to media at the site of the blast Peshawar SSP Operations Haroon Rasheed Khan said that two policemen had been martyred in the attack. He termed the explosion a suicide blast and said there was no “threat alert”.
Speaking to the media, KP government spokesman Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif said security was provided to mosques as a “general rule”. He added that the administration had adopted security measures at this mosque as well, adding that such measures were always ensured during congregation prayers on Fridays.
“Those martyred and injured in the attack would be given monetary assistance under the government’s special package,” he said.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
A witness Shayan Haider had been preparing to enter the mosque when a powerful explosion threw him to the street. “I opened my eyes and there was dust and bodies everywhere,” he said.
Evidence was collected from the site, according to a tweet by the Peshawar CCPO account.
At the LRH emergency department, there was chaos as doctors struggled to move the many wounded into operating theatres. The hospital was put on red alert and more medical personnel were called to LRH, the spokesperson added.
A medical emergency was also notified in Peshawar district with all doctors and support staff at government health facilities and medical teaching institutions directed to remain on red alert.
According to locals, the area housed a number of markets and was usually packed around the time of Friday prayers.
Prime Minister Imran Khan strongly condemned the attack and directed provision of immediate medical treatment to the injured, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said in a statement.
President Dr Arif Alvi condemned the incident in a statement and expressed grief over the precious lives lost. He expressed sympathy with the families of the departed and also prayed for the recovery of the injured.