Pakistan: 19 killed in Peshawar Shia mosque attack

Pakistani Taliban claim responsibility; say it is revenge for hanging of militant Aqeel alias Doctor Usman

Pakistani Taliban claim responsibility; say it is revenge for hanging of militant Aqeel alias Doctor Usman

KARACHI – At least 19 people were killed and 40 others were injured in a gun-and-bomb attack on a Shia mosque during Friday prayers in northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar,  police and officials said.

The death toll may rise further as the injured succumb to their wounds at hospitals across the city. Pakistani Taliban have claimed the attack, local media reports.

Eyewitnesses said around five to six terrorists in police uniforms barged into a Shia mosque, called Imambargah locally, in the city’s Hayatabad area during the prayers and opened fire on worshippers indiscriminately. They also said terrorists threw hand grenades on them before one of them blew himself up.

Mushtaq Hussein, an eyewitness told local ARY TV channel, “We were in the middle of our prayers when I heard the firing sounds followed by loud screams and a stampede.”

 “I also heard loud blasts but I did not look back as people kept pushing and running to save their lives,” Hussein added.

Deputy Commissioner Riaz Mehsud told reporters that terrorists first fired at the people from outside the prayer hall and then two of them entered the hall to explode their suicide vests. However, only one of the two succeeded in detonating the vest, while the second fled.

City police chief Mian Saeed claimed that two attackers were killed in an exchange of firing with the police. A search operation was also launched in the locality close to the Shia mosque to nab the alleged fleeing terrorists, Saeed added.

Provincial Health Department Secretary Mushtaq Judoon confirmed the toll at 19 killed and 40 injured. Earlier, Provincial Information Minister Mushtaq Ghani put the number of attackers between three and four.

A spokesperson for the Pakistani Taliban group claimed responsibility for the attack in an email to local media. The Tehrik-i-Taliban spokesperson said the attack was revenge for militant Aqeel alias Doctor Usman, who was convicted and hanged on Dec. 20, 2014, for his role in the deadly attack on Pakistani military headquarters in 2009. He added that three militants carried out the attack.

The attack severely damaged the prayer hall. Pieces of human flesh, caps, broken glasses  and other belongings were strewn all around the mosque, local TV footage showed.

Doctors at Peshawar city's Hayatabad Medical Complex described the condition of several of the injured as critical.

This is the third attack on Shia mosques in Sunni-majority Pakistan in less than two months. Some 73 people were killed in southeastern Shikarpur district in a bomb attack on a Shia mosque last month.

The attack came as a grim reminder of a recent mass shooting at a Pakistani school in the same city that killed over 140 people, mostly children.

Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency