PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN (AP) — A powerful bomb exploded inside a mosque in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar yesterday, killing at least 45 worshippers and wounding dozens more, many of them critically, police said.
Local police official Waheed Khan said the explosion occurred as worshippers had collected in the Kucha Risaldar mosque in Peshawar’s old city for Friday prayers. Ambulances rushed through congested narrow streets carrying the wounded to Lady Reading Hospital, where doctors worked feverishly.
Peshawar police Chief Muhammed Ejaz Khan said the violence started when two armed attackers opened fire on police outside the mosque. One attacker and one policeman were killed in the gunfight, and another police official was wounded. The remaining attacker then ran inside the mosque and detonated a bomb.
At least 150 worshippers were inside the mosque at the time of the explosion, said witnesses.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast.
Shayan Haider, a witness, 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. At the Lady Reading Hospital Emergency department, there was chaos as doctors struggled to move the many wounded into operating theatres.
Hundreds of relatives gathered outside the emergency department, many of them wailing and beating their chests, pleading for information about their loved ones.
Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the bombing.
In recent months Pakistan has experienced a broad increase of violence. Dozens of military personnel have been killed in scores of attacks on army outposts along the border with Afghanistan.