Security officials in Peshawar were looking for clues on Tuesday as to how a suicide bomber beat high-level security at the Malik Saad Shaheed Police Lines in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) capital on Monday, as the death toll from the mosque bombing rose to 100, all but three of them policemen.
Inspector General of the K-P Police, Muazzam Jah Ansari, told a joint news conference with Caretaker Chief Minister Azam Khan that a joint investigation team (JIT), led by a deputy inspector general (DIG)-ranked officer, had been formed to investigate the attack and the security lapse.
A woman reacts as she searches for her relatives after the suicide blast in Peshawar on January 30, 2023.—REUTERS
“Investigation is under way into the security lapse,” Ansari told reporters. “We are checking one month’s CCTV footage and tracking the facilitators of the bomber. Those responsible will be identified and brought to book,” the police chief added.
He said that the caretaker chief minister had constituted a high-level inquiry committee to probe into the blast. “It will be a multi-agency JIT, comprising intelligence, police, and other security officials. The team will be led by a senior DIG, who won’t be a member of the Peshawar police,” Ansari added.
The press conference by the chief minister and the provincial police chief came as the death toll from the suicide attack at the mosque in the police lines a day earlier rose to 100 after more bodies were recovered from the blast site, officials and medics said.
Read PM, COAS review security situation after Peshawar mosque blast
Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) spokesperson Mohammad Asim Khan said in a statement that 100 bodies had been brought to the medical facility. Among the injured, he added, 53 people were currently being treated at the hospital, while seven of them had been shifted to the intensive care unit (ICU).
Rescue workers clear the rubble as they search for victims.—REUTERS
Prof Dr Muhammad Shoaib said that 17 injured policemen were being treated at the hospital’s orthopedics ward, while surgeries were performed on the most injured cops successfully. Medics said that all injured cops were out of danger, except one.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said in Islamabad that 97 of the 100 martyred were police officials. The minister added that a breakaway faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) called Khurasani had claimed responsibility.
On Monday, a suicide bomber blew himself up during the Zuhr prayers at the mosque. Peshawar Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Muhammad Ijaz Khan had confirmed that the attack was a suicide bombing and that the bomber was standing in the front row at the time of the explosion.
According to the initial investigation report, a meeting of the investigation officials was going on in the Police Lines before the blast. The report said that the participants of the meeting had gone to the mosque for prayers after the meeting, adding that most of the investigating officials were martyred.
The report declared the blast a case of security lapse and said that the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) had obtained the CCTV footage. The investigators had also taken into custody the record of attendance of officials in the Police Lines while seeking data of the persons in the family quarters.
At the joint press conference, the IGP said that 12 kilogrammes of explosives were used in the blast. However, he added that most of the deaths occurred because the roof of the mosque came crashing down on hundreds of worshippers.
Read More 'Terrorism is indefensible': Leaders, missions condemn Peshawar attack
Responding to a question about the claims of responsibility for the attack, the K-P police chief said there were multiple claims but added that the investigators would find out who was actually responsible. For now, he said, the probe was focused on finding out how the attacker breached security.
“The TTP first announced and took responsibility for the attack. The Jamaatul Ahrar and Aamaq news [the mouthpiece of the Daesh] also claimed responsibility,” he said. They may be involved, but we do not trust any claims. We will investigate the incident and the characters behind it,” he added.
He further said that sometimes the banned organisations took responsibility for an attack and at other times they did not. “We will take into consideration all the aspects and the investigation was underway. But the first question on our mind is how the suicide attacker came and reached such a sensitive area.”
On the occasion, Caretaker Chief Minister Azam Khan expressed deep sorrow over the tragedy. He said that such incidents had happened before and “we should all unite to stop such incidents” in the future. “A JIT has been notified and the probe will clear everything soon,” he added.
Chief Minister Khan, while responding to a question, said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif visited Peshawar on Monday and discussed the security-related matters of the province. The prime minister assured that he would release security funds to the province to further strengthen the police force.
Meanwhile, a rescue and search operation was completed 26 hours after the bombing as rescuers removed the debris from the demolished mosque, Peshawar Division Commissioner Riaz Mehsud said. Bodies of the martyred had been handed over to the heirs after identification.
The Peshawar Police Lines houses the offices of more than eight units, including the Frontier Reserve Police (FRP), Special Security Unit (SSU), Elite Force and the CTD.
K-P observed a day of mourning amid heightened security, following the deadliest attack in the city in a decade.
Speaking to Express News, Capital City Police Officer Ijaz Khan said that there was a possibility that the assailant might have entered the compound in an official vehicle, or he might have been already present in the Police Lines. "[The] CTD is investigating the case," he added.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) members condemned “in the strongest terms” the suicide terrorist attack and called for those responsible for the “heinous and cowardly” act to be brought to justice.
A statement issued by the UNSC president for January, Ambassador President Ishikane Kimihiro of Japan, expressed “deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims and to the government of Pakistan”.
Also condemning the attack, the High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), Miguel Ángel Moratinos, emphasised that all forms of violence and acts of terror against civilians and religious sites were intolerable and unjustifiable.
(WITH INPUT FROM AGENCIES)
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ