A massive explosion ripped through a Shia mosque in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar on Friday, killing at least 30 people and injuring dozens more, according to reports.
The blast took place as worshippers had gathered in the Kucha Risaldar mosque in Peshawar’s old city area for congregational Friday prayers, reports quoted local authorities and eyewitnesses as saying.
Peshawar city’s police chief, Muhammed Ejaz Khan, told reporters that the violence ensued when two armed assailants opened fire on policemen outside the mosque.
In the exchange of fire, one assailant and one policeman were killed and another policeman was wounded. After that, one attacker barged inside the mosque and detonated his explosives.
Videos and photos circulating online showed ambulances rushing through congested narrow streets and ferrying the wounded to Lady Reading Hospital.
More than 60 people were injured, most of them critically, and the death toll is likely to rise, said hospital spokesman, Mohamed Asim.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
Many anti-Shia terrorist groups are active in the South Asian country. Both Daesh and Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have previously carried out similar attacks in the region, located near the border with Afghanistan.
"We are in a state of emergency and the injured are being shifted to the hospital. We are investigating the nature of the blast but it seemed to be a suicide attack," police officer Mohammad Sajjad Khan was quoted as saying in news reports.
One witness, identified as Shayan Haider, said he was about to enter the mosque when a powerful explosion threw him back on the street.
“I opened my eyes and there was dust and bodies everywhere,” he said.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has reportedly condemned the bombing but no statement has been issued by his office so far.
The development came a week after two people were killed and several others wounded in fresh round of clashes between Pakistani and Afghan security forces in a border town.
The two sides exchanged heavy fire in a southwestern border area that divides Pakistan’s Chaman and Afghanistan’s Spin Boldak districts, news outlets reported.
In a statement to local media, advisor to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif confirmed that the explosion took place during Friday prayers and said “the terrorists reportedly first tried to enter the mosque where they exchanged fire with police.”
According to Saif, one of the terrorists managed to enter the mosque and carried out the attack.
Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed was also cited in local media reports as saying that the attack was a pre-planned act to destabilize the country.
"External forces want to disturb peace in Pakistan," he said, noting that no security alert was issued about the attack.