At least 63 killed in Peshawar Imambargah suicide bombing

    At least 63 worshippers were killed and nearly 200 others injured when a suicide bomber attacked an imambargah in the Kocha Risaldar area of Peshawar during Friday prayers.

    The imambargah was targeted by multiple attackers, one of whom shot the police guards at the entrance to a packed mosque at the historic Qissa Khwani Bazaar. Later, one of them entered the mosque and detonated his explosives-laden vest in the middle of worshippers.

    The spokesperson for Lady Reading Hospital said multiple victims were still in critical condition and the medical facility was treating 37 people for blast-related injuries.

    Hours after the incident, the CTD said a suicide bomber and his two handlers entered the provincial capital via Namak Mandi and then headed towards Kocha Risaldar area using Kohati Gate to reach near the imambargah in a rickshaw.

    Prime Minister Imran Khan also confirmed the development, saying that the authorities have collected all information regarding the origins of the terrorists and “are going after them with full force”.

    “[I] have personally been monitoring operations & coordinating with CTD & Agencies in the wake of the cowardly terrorist attack on Peshawar Imambargah. We now have all info regarding origins of where the terrorists came from & are going after them with full force,” he wrote on his official Twitter handle.

    In a follow-up tweet, the premier expressed sorrow over the terrorist attack saying: “My deepest condolences go to the victims’ families & prayers for the recovery of the injured.”

    He added that he had directed the K-P chief minister to personally visit the families and look after their needs.

    The militant Islamic State (IS) in a statement claimed responsibility for the deadly bomb blast.

    Afghan Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid, while expressing sympathy with the victims of the Peshawar imambargah blast, condemned the terrorist attack. “There is no justification for attacking civilians and worshipers. We express our deepest condolences to all the victims of the incident,” he wrote on his official Twitter handle.

    The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemned the suicide blast in the strongest possible terms.

    “The assault was clearly intended to target Shia worshippers and bears the hallmarks of sectarian outfits that have been allowed to run amok in recent years,” the commission stated in a tweet issued today.

    Last week, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby visited All Saints Church, Peshawar, and assured the parishioners that they are not forgotten by Christians around the world, including Anglicans across the global Anglican Communion.

    In a statement, Church of Pakistan Moderator Bishop Dr Azad Marshall lamented the loss of lives in the terrorist attack. He said the attack had shocked and grieved the entire nation.

    “The attack on the Shia Muslim community and the recent killing of our church leader in Peshawar appears to be a part of a conspiracy to push Pakistan again into the abyss of religious terrorism.

    “In the face of this brutality, the human family, all people of faith and of good will, must stand together to recommit to respecting and caring for one another, to protecting one another, and to preventing such violence,” he said.

    Bishop Marshall encouraged prayer for and solidarity with the victims and those close to them. He acknowledged the role of the security forces in fighting the scourge of terrorism, but urged the government to “do more to protect all people in Pakistan, whether Christians, Muslims, or of any other religion or belief, from the violence perpetrated by such extremist sectarian criminals”.

    “The principle of freedom of religion and belief for all people must be affirmed and protected in Pakistan as a fundamental ethical and legal responsibility of the government,” he said.

    Bishop Marshall said that the news of the attack in Peshawar had also shocked the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who visited the city on Sunday, Feb 27, to condole with the family of the slain church leader William Siraj and offer support to the families affected in the All Saints Church suicide bombings in 2013.

    “The archbishop has offered his condolences and sympathy to the families of the people who lost their lives in today’s terrorist attack on the Kucha Risaldar Imambargah. In a letter, the archbishop has said that all attacks perpetrated against the innocent are anathema to our understanding of the Grace and love of our God,” he said.

    Quoting the archbishop’s letter, Bishop Marshall said: “During my visit to Pakistan, I was reminded time and again that the health of a nation is based upon the tolerance of the many towards the few, and that only when all our honoured and recognised for their individual humanity and the contribution that they bring to society, does a nation truly progress. This latest attack against worshippers from a minority Islamic tradition, and the attacks against the Christian community, represent utterly wicked attempts to destroy this dream. And these attacks will continue to fail to break the resolve of those who boldly profess their faith. We all stand in solidarity with you and our Muslim brothers and sisters in condemnation of this and other criminal acts of senseless violence and murder.”

    Bishop Marshall said that in his letter, Archbishop Welby prayed that “the spirit of reconciliation will grow powerfully amongst the faithful of Pakistan, that bridges can be built, and new destinies forged in religious tolerance, peace and harmony”.

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