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Officials said the blast occurred near the Police Lines area around 1.40 pm when the Zuhr prayers were being offered.
Most of the casualties were policemen as the mosque is located within a compound that also serves as the city’s police headquarters.
Pakistan Taliban claims responsibility
Sarbakaf Mohmand, a commander for the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter. The main spokesperson for the militant group was not immediately available for comment.
A brother of the slain commander of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Umar Khalid Khurasani claimed that the suicide attack was part of the revenge attack for his brother who was killed last August in Afghanistan.
According to security officials, the suicide bomber was present in the front row during the prayers when he exploded himself, injuring dozens of people offering prayers. “A portion of the building had collapsed and several people are believed to be under it,” police official Sikandar Khan said.
The compound is located in a high-security zone in Peshawar, along with several government buildings, and it was unclear how the bomber managed to penetrate so deep inside the zone unnoticed.
The injured are being shifted to the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, the officials said.
Hospital sources said 23 of those injured were in a critical condition. The toll is likely to go up.
An emergency has been imposed in the locality and the area has been cordoned off.
PM Sharif vows stern action
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif condemned the bombing, and ordered authorities to ensure the best possible medical treatment to the victims. He also vowed “stern action” against those who were behind the attack.
He later traveled to Peshawar to meet the wounded and held a meeting with officials to assess the security situation in the region.
Strongly condemn the terrorist suicide attack in police lines mosque Peshawar during prayers. My prayers & condolen… https://t.co/LMkgUAD8Rg
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) 1675069990000
Former Prime Minister Imran Khan also condemned the bombing, calling it a “terrorist suicide attack” in a Twitter posting. “My prayers and condolences go to victims’ families,” said the ex-premier. “It is imperative we improve our intelligence gathering & properly equip our police forces to combat the growing threat of terrorism.”
Rise in terror attacks
Peshawar is the capital of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan and has been the scene of frequent militant attacks.
The Pakistani Taliban, are known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, and are separate group but also a close ally of the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in neighboring Afghanistan in August 2021 as US and Nato troops were in the final stages of their pullout from the country after 20 years of war.
The TTP has waged an insurgency in Pakistan over the past 15 years, fighting for stricter enforcement of Islamic laws in the country, the release of their members who are in government custody and a reduction of Pakistani military presence in the country’s former tribal regions.
Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant attacks since November when the Pakistani Taliban ended their ceasefire with government forces.
Cash-strapped Pakistan is currently also facing one of its worst economic crises and is seeking a crucial installment of $1.1 billion from the International Monetary Fund — part of its $6 billion bailout package — to avoid default. Talks with the IMF on reviving the bailout have stalled in the past months.
watch First Visuals: Massive blast reported in Pakistan’s Peshawar mosque