Pakistan: casualties of suicide bombing in mosque exceeds 90 [UPDATE]

People try to identify the bodies of their relatives, victims of the blast at a Mosque, at a hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, 30 January 2023. Photo: EPA/ARSHAD ARBAB Dostawca: PAP/EPA.

The death toll of a Monday suicide bombing at a crowded mosque in Pakistan's Peshawar has been upped to 90 as more information on casualties of this latest attack targeting police, in the northwestern city ridden with Islamist militias, trickles in.

The attacker slipped through several manned security barricades into the “Red Zone” compound housing police and counter-terrorism offices, in the volatile northwestern city of Peshawar, the police said.

“It was a suicide bombing,” Peshawar Police Chief Ijaz Khan told Reuters, adding that more than 90 people were killed and 176 wounded, many of them critically.

The attack came a day ahead of an International Monetary Fund team mission to Islamabad. The mission intended to initiate talks on freeing funding for the South Asian economy hit by a balance of payment crisis.

The attack was condemned by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

The attacker set off his explosives right when hundreds of people lined up to say prayers.

“We have found traces of explosives,” Khan told reporters, adding that the bomber must have seized the moment when a security lapse had clearly occurred.

The “how” of the attacker managing to bypass such an elite security cordon is being investigated, just as whether or not he received any help from the inside.

According to Khan’s statement, the mosque hall was packed with up to 400 worshippers, and it is police officers who comprise the bulk of the dead.

No terrorist organisation immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, the worst in Peshawar since March 2022 when an Islamic State suicide bombing had killed at least 58 people in a Shi'ite Muslim mosque during Friday prayers.


The bomber stood amongst the first row of worshippers, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told Geo TV.

“As the prayer leader said 'Allah is the greatest', there was a big bang,” Mushtaq Khan, a policeman with a head wound, told reporters from his hospital bed. “We couldn't figure out what happened as the bang was deafening. It threw me out of the veranda. The walls and roof fell on me. Thanks to God, he saved me.”

The might of the blast pulled down the upper floor of the mosque, locking dozens of worshippers under the rubble. Rescuers cutting through the collapsed rooftop to make their way down and tend to victims caught in the wreckage were seen in live TV footage.

“We can't say how many are still under it,” said provincial governor Haji Ghulam Ali.

The sheer scale of the human tragedy is unimaginable,” Sharif said. “This is no less than an attack on Pakistan. The nation is overwhelmed by a deep sense of grief. I have no doubt terrorism is our foremost national security challenge.”

Witnesses recounted scenes of mayhem and disarray as the police and the rescuers scrambled to bring the wounded to hospitals.

Sharif, who called on employees of his party to donate blood at the hospitals, felt that anyone targeting Muslims during prayer has nothing to do with Islam. “The U.S. mission in Pakistan expressed deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims of the horrific attack,” Washington's embassy released in a statement. Smack-bang in the middle of Pakistan's tribal districts bordering Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, Peshawar is a frequent target of Islamist militant groups including the Islamic State and the Pakistani Taliban.