An explosion at a mosque and madrassa (religious seminary) in Pakistan’s north-western city of Peshawar on Tuesday left at least 8 people dead and more than 110 injured, several of them were children. The blast took place at around 8:30 am local time at the Speen (white) Jamaat mosque, which also serves as a religious school named Jamia Zubairia Madrassa, for the local community in the city’s Dir Colony.
Peshawar police chief Muhammad Ali Khan told reporters at the scene that “Students including many adults, were studying the Quran when the explosion occurred.” Shafqat Malik, the chief of the bomb disposal unit of the provincial police, said the device used was sophisticated in design and involved a timed detonation. Malik said, “The forensic evidence that we have collected shows that about 5 kg of explosives were detonated through a timed device. It seems to be a high-quality device, which appears to use TNT. There has been a lot of damage; and this attack was carried out after proper planning.”
Peshawar, close to the Afghan border, has seen some of the worst incidents of violence during the Taliban insurgency in recent years. The latest attack broke the period of relative calm. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
According to the seminary’s administration, more than 1,000 students; are enrolled at the madrassa and nearly 130 people were inside the prayer hall; at the time of the explosion. The majority of victims are children and teachers. An eyewitness told police that he saw a man who entered the building; with a suspicious bag shortly before the blast.
Images from inside the prayer hall showed extensive damage. Television footage from the scene showed smoke, bloodstained clothes, torn pieces of flesh, broken windows, prayer caps; and debris strewn across the floor. Most of the injured were taken to the nearby Lady Reading Hospital where at least seven were described as critical. Hospital officials confirmed receiving at least seven bodies and over 85 injured. Another 36 were shifted to Naseerullah Babar Memorial Hospital, while two were moved to Khyber Teaching Hospital and Hayatabad Medical complex. Many of the injured had severe burns.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra, who visited the blast site, said the government’s primary focus was on providing the injured the best possible treatment to increase their chances of recovery.
Condemning the incident, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed; regret over the loss of life and prayed for the speedy recovery of the injured. Pakistan has battled the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Pakistan Taliban, since 2007; when the group was formed and held sway over several districts; carrying out frequent attacks against civilians and security targets across Pakistan. Later on Tuesday, the Pakistani Taliban issued a statement denying its involvement in the attack; and called the targeting of students reprehensible.