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Pakistan mosque blast loss of life toll rises to 88 as militants give conflicting claims of accountability

Islamabad, Pakistan CNN  — 

The loss of life toll from a suspected suicide bomb that ripped by way of a mosque in northwestern Pakistan Monday has risen to at the very least 92, marking one of many deadliest assaults within the nation in years because it faces what one analyst described as “a nationwide safety disaster.”

Peshawar deputy commissioner Shafiullah Khan on Tuesday confirmed the fatalities and stated greater than 80 victims have been nonetheless being handled in hospital following the blast on the mosque in a police compound within the metropolis.

Nasarullah Khan, a police official who survived the explosion, stated he remembered seeing “an enormous burst of flames” earlier than turning into surrounded by a plume of black mud.

Khan stated his foot broke within the blast and he was caught within the rubble for 3 hours.

“The ceiling fell in… the house in between the ceiling and wall is the place I managed to outlive,” he stated.

In the meantime, hope was fading within the seek for survivors as rescue employees sifted by way of the rubble of the mosque that was all however destroyed Monday, when worshipers – primarily regulation enforcement officers – had gathered for night prayers.

Images and video present partitions of the mosque decreased to fragments, with glass home windows and paneling destroyed within the highly effective blast.

“We’re not anticipating anybody alive to be discovered. Largely lifeless our bodies are being recovered,” Bilal Faizi, a rescue spokesperson, stated Tuesday.

Volunteers carry the coffin of a man killed in the suspected suicide bombing in Peshawar, Pakistan, January 30, 2023.

Conflicting claims

The blast Monday is the newest signal of the deteriorating safety state of affairs in Peshawar, capital of the restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province that borders Afghanistan and the location of frequent assaults by the Pakistani Taliban, referred to as Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP).

The TTP is a US-designated international terrorist group working in each Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Final 12 months, the breakdown of an already shaky year-long ceasefire between the TTP and Pakistan’s authorities threatened not solely escalating violence in that nation however probably a rise in cross-border tensions between the Afghan and Pakistani governments.

Security officials and rescue workers gather at the site of a suspected suicide bombing, in Peshawar, Pakistan, January 30, 2023.

Initially on Monday, TTP officers Sarbakaf Mohmand and Omar Mukaram Khurasani had claimed the blast was “revenge” for the loss of life of TTP militant Khalid Khorasani final 12 months.

However the TTP’s major spokesperson later denied the group was concerned within the assault.

“Concerning the Peshawar incident, we think about it essential to make clear that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has nothing to do with this incident,” TTP spokesperson Muhammad Khorasani stated in a press release late Monday. “Based on our legal guidelines and basic structure, any motion in mosques, madrasas, funerals grounds and different sacred locations is an offense.”

Pakistan authorities say an investigation is underway and haven’t confirmed both declare.

On Monday, Peshawar Police Chief Mohammad Aijaz Khan stated the blast contained in the Police Traces Mosque was “in all probability a suicide assault,” echoing a press release from Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

“The brutal killing of Muslims prostrating earlier than Allah is in opposition to the teachings of the Quran,” Sharif stated, including that “focusing on the Home of Allah is proof that the attackers don’t have anything to do with Islam.”

Soldiers and police officers clear the way for ambulances rushing toward the explosion site in Peshawar, Pakistan, January 30, 2023.

‘A nationwide safety disaster’

Rights teams have condemned the lethal assault, which has raised fears of recent violence amid a deteriorating safety state of affairs within the nation.

The Human Rights Fee of Pakistan in a press release Monday stated the assault might have been averted if the “state heeded earlier warnings from civil society about extremist outfits within the province.”

“Sick-equipped regulation enforcement personnel proceed to be focused in incidents that dearly price civilian and police lives. We demand the state take motion now,” the assertion stated.

Madiha Afzal, a fellow in international coverage on the Brookings Establishment in Washington, stated the 2021 Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has “emboldened” the TTP and different terror teams.

“The TTP has additionally been emboldened by a Pakistani state that has had a shaky, unsure response to the group within the final couple of years,” she stated, including a “sloppy coverage towards terrorist teams has been roughly constant throughout governments in Pakistan for the reason that mid-2000s.”

Negotiations with the militants have “failed repeatedly as a result of these teams are existentially against the Pakistani state and structure,” she added.

“That is now a nationwide safety disaster for Pakistan as soon as once more. The answer must be a concerted army operation (in opposition to the TTP),” she stated. “However that’s now difficult by the truth that the TTP can go throughout the border into Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.”

The assault additionally comes at a fragile time for Pakistan, which has been grappling with a price of residing disaster as meals and gas shortages wreak havoc within the nation of 220 million.

Sharif’s authorities has struggled to revive the nation’s economic system, additional devastated by lethal floods final 12 months that killed greater than 1,500 individuals and submerged total villages.

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