Suicide bomber leaves carnage inside packed mosque in Pakistan
Peshawar, Pakistan — A suicide bomber struck on Monday inside a mosque in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, reportedly killing at least 20 people and wounding scores more, officials said. The bomber detonated his suicide vest as worshipers — including many policemen from nearby police offices — were praying inside.
The impact of the explosion collapsed the roof of the mosque, which caved in and injured many, according to Zafar Khan, a local police officer. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing in Peshawar, the capital of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan, but as CBS News' Sami Yousafzai reports, the Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan terror group, the Pakistani Taliban commonly known by the abbreviation TTP, recently broke off peace talks with the country's government and relaunched military operations against state security forces.
The Pakistani group is believed to have gained strength over the last couple years, since the Afghan Taliban retook control of the neighboring country in August 2021. The TTP are a separate group to the Afghan Taliban, but they are close allies.
The Pakistani group has waged an insurgency in Pakistan for 15 years, fighting for stricter enforcement of Islamic laws in the country, the release of their members who are in government custody and a reduction of Pakistani military presence in the country's former tribal regions.
A Pakistani security officer who spoke to CBS News on the condition of anonymity said the country's armed forces had made significant strides against the TTP but that the group had managed to regain operational strength by operating across the Afghan border, enabling it to "start attacking soft targets in Pakistan."
The official said TTP leaders were orchestrating attacks inside Pakistan from Afghan soil, and said it was the "duty and responsibility" of the Afghan Taliban regime ruling the neighboring nation to prevent such operations.
A survivor of Monday's attack, 38-year-old police officer Meena Gul, said he was inside the mosque when the bomb went off. He said he didn't know how he survived unhurt. He could hear cries and screams after the bomb exploded, he said. There were more than 150 worshippers inside the mosque when the bomb went off, Gul added.
Khan, the police officer, said rescuers were trying to get the wounded to a nearby hospital. He said several of the wounded were in critical condition at a hospital and there were fears the death toll would rise.
Another local police officer, Aftab Khan, told CBS News he was preparing to go to the mosque to pray when he heard the "huge blast."
"Due to security threats and fears of Taliban attack, police were on high alert," he said, "but this tragic attack took the lives of many police and civilians."
Pakistan's DAWN TV network quoted Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif as condemning the attack and lambasting the attackers as having "nothing to do with Islam."
"Terrorists want to create fear by targeting those who perform the duty of defending Pakistan," he said, alluding to the high number of security forces who use the mosque. "The entire nation is standing united against the menace of terrorism."