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Pakistan Suicide Bombing Death Toll Rises to At Least 95

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—The death toll in a suicide bombing in northwestern Pakistan climbed to at least 95 on Tuesday as rescuers pulled bodies out of the rubble of a mosque hit by one of the country’s deadliest terrorist attacks.

Emergency crews worked through the night to pull the dead and injured from the debris of the mosque in a large police compound in the city of Peshawar. The compound included police offices and housing, and many of those killed were police. More than 220 people were injured, officials said Tuesday.

Rab Nawaz, a 38-year-old police constable, was in the second row of those who had gathered for lunchtime prayers at the mosque on Monday. As soon as the prayer leader raised his hands to begin the service, there was a huge blast, he said. The roof of the mosque collapsed on top of him.

“I thought I had died,” Mr. Nawaz said from the hospital, where he was recovering from a broken arm and other injuries. “After some time, I and a couple of others managed to shuffle along and found a hole in the roof and we slowly crawled out through the hole.”

He saw many dead around him. “God has given me a new life,” he said.

Rescue workers spent the night searching for victims and survivors at a mosque in Peshawar, Pakistan, after Monday’s suicide bombing.


Muhammad Zubair/Associated Press

Moazzam Jah Ansari, the provincial police chief, said he believed the attack was carried out by a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP.

The Pakistani Taliban, which is separate from the Afghan Taliban, has unleashed a renewed campaign of violence since late November, when peace talks with the Pakistani authorities broke down. Monday’s attack was by far the deadliest in the current spree of attacks.

The Pakistani Taliban, formed in 2007 under the influence of al Qaeda, denied authorizing Monday’s attack, but a faction of the group claimed responsibility on Twitter. The group has focused in recent years on attacking police and military personnel, rather than the mass casualty civilian bombings that marked its earlier years. Terrorism experts in Pakistan said the leadership of the group had developed differences with the faction thought to have carried out the bombing.

Mr. Ansari said that the shock waves from the blast made the roof of the mosque and its concrete beams fall down on the worshipers, causing most of the casualties. He said that the suicide bomber had managed to bring materials used for the attack in small amounts into the police compound in the days before the attack. The remains of the suspected bomber were sent for DNA analysis, he said.

“It was a lapse in security,” said Mr. Ansari. “We will catch those behind this attack.”

A funeral was held Tuesday for a police official killed in the suicide bombing in Peshawar, Pakistan.


bilawal arbab/Shutterstock

Pakistan faces both a political and economic crisis. The government of Prime Minister

Shehbaz Sharif

is trying to restart a stalled bailout from the International Monetary Fund, and it is in a bitter confrontation with opposition leader Imran Khan. Elections are due to be held by October.

In the wake of the attack, Mr. Sharif called for political unity. “We can fight our political fights later,” he said Tuesday on Twitter.

“For Pakistan’s fight against terrorism, we are at an inflection point,” said Abdul Basit, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “Our economy is in the doldrums. Political chaos is hindering efforts to put on a joint front against the resurgent TTP.”

The attack will likely strain relations between Pakistan and the Taliban rulers in neighboring Afghanistan, where Islamabad says that the Pakistani Taliban is based.

The Afghan Taliban has had a close relationship with the Pakistani authorities since the formation of the movement in the mid-1990s. But, now in power, the Taliban has rejected pressure from Islamabad to take action against the Pakistani Taliban. Instead, Kabul helped arrange the talks between Pakistani authorities and the militant group that broke down.

The Afghan government said Monday that it condemns attacks on worshipers in mosques and deems such actions in contradiction to the teachings of Islam.

The Taliban have said they wouldn’t allow Afghan soil to be used against other countries, a commitment it made in the 2020 Doha agreement with the U.S. It denies hosting the Pakistani Taliban.

At least 95 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a mosque in northwestern Pakistan on Monday. A faction of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter. Photo: Fayaz Aziz/Reuters

Write to Saeed Shah at saeed.shah@wsj.com

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