Peshawar reels from suicide bombing

PESHAWAR: A pall of gloom gripped the city of Peshawar, which borders neighbouring Afghanistan, as thousands gathered to attend mass funerals for victims of Friday’s suicide bombing of a mosque that killed 57 worshippers and injured nearly 200.

In the attack, a lone suicide bomber shot the police guards at the entrance to a packed mosque at Peshawar’s historic Qissa Khwani Bazaar before detonating his explosives-laden vest in the middle of worshippers offering Friday prayers.

The bombing followed a string of similar incidents in war-torn Afghanistan, whose border lies just about an hour away, where several mosques were targeted after the Taliban took control of the country last August.

With damp eyes, thousands of mourners gathered near the site of the bombing to attend mass funerals for 10 victims of the terrorist attack, with many wailing as they moved the coffins from ambulances to the funeral site.

Volunteers carried coffins draped in white sheets and covered with flowers to the funeral site, one after another, as mourners loudly recited verses from the Quran.

Shopping malls, markets, and shops remained shuttered in several areas to mourn the deaths as police and paramilitary troops patrolled the city.

According to a spokesman for Lady Reading hospital, some 50 people injured by the blast are still being treated for moderate to severe injuries, while another 144 have been discharged.

The police have taken two suspects into custody on suspicion of having links to the suicide bomber.

Quoting security sources, the media reported that terrorist group Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-KP) — an affiliate of the so-called Islamic State militant group active in the south and central Asian region — has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.

The latest attack has stoked fears of terrorism returning to Peshawar, capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which after being a longtime hotbed of terrorism has been peaceful over the past several years amid improving security in the South Asian country.

Unfazed by the attack, the Australian cricket team, visiting Pakistan for the first time in 24 years, continued to play a test match in Rawalpindi, just some 145 kilometres (90 miles) from Peshawar.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan said Pakistan was fully aware of the motives and perpetrators of the attack but stopped short of naming any group.

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