Authorities in Pakistan have launched a rescue operation in a bid to locate survivors under the rubble.
Qatar has condemned and denounced a fatal explosion in a mosque in Pakistan that killed at least 87 people with more than 100 wounded, according to the latest death toll.
The mosque, located inside a police compound and mostly used by law enforcement personnel, is currently the scene of a mass rescue operation to search for victims under the rubble.
“The State of Qatar expresses its strong condemnation and denunciation of the bombing that took place inside a mosque in the city of Peshawar in Pakistan, and resulted in deaths and injuries,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Monday.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterates Qatar’s firm stance rejecting violence and terrorism, regardless of the motives and reasons. It also stresses Qatar’s total rejection of targeting places of worship and intimidating the safe,” it added.
The attack, one of the worst to hit Pakistan in recent years, has been denounced by the country’s prime minister and other world leaders.
The event inside the Police Lines Mosque was “probably a suicide attack,” Peshawar police chief Khan said in a statement to CNN, echoing Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
“The brutal killing of Muslims prostrating before Allah is against the teachings of the Quran,” Sharif said in a statement, adding that “targeting the House of Allah is proof that the attackers have nothing to do with Islam.”
“Terrorists want to create fear by targeting those who perform the duty of defending Pakistan,” the prime minister continued.
“Those who fight against Pakistan will be erased from the page.”
Authorities in Pakistan are now looking into a “comprehensive strategy” to reestablish peace and order in the northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where Peshawar is situated, Sharif added.
Muhammad Khorasani, a Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) spokesman, an umbrella organisation of various Islamist armed militant groups operating along the Afghan–Pakistani border, denied any involvement in the assault.
“Regarding the Peshawar incident, we consider it necessary to clarify that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has nothing to do with this incident. According to our laws and general constitution, any action in mosques, madrasas, funerals grounds and other sacred places is an offence,” Khorasani said in a statement late on Monday.
Sarbakaf Mohmand and Omar Mukaram Khurasani, two TTP officials who had previously claimed the explosion was “revenge” for the murder of TTP militant Khalid Khorasani last year, were not addressed by him.
Authorities in Pakistan have not verified either claim but maintain that an investigation is ongoing.
Some 33 militants were killed in December when the militant group, ‘Pakistani Taliban’ attacked a police station similar to Peshawar in the country’s north-west.
Rescue workers search for survivors
Rescue workers were still scurrying to find worshippers trapped in the wreckage on Tuesday, and a spokeswoman told the BBC that the operation would go for another three hours.
“The rescue operation has been going on for more than 18 hours,” Mohammad Bilal Faizi said.
“The bodies of 20 more people have been recovered and it’s feared that some bodies may still be under the rubble.”
Over 20 police personnel have been laid to rest in funeral services, their coffins bearing the flag of Pakistan.
The Peshawar police chief had earlier told local media that there had been 300 to 400 police officers there at the time.
The mosque is located in one of the city’s most tightly regulated neighbourhoods, which also houses police headquarters and counterterrorism and intelligence agencies.
The latest incident occurred at the beginning of a crucial week for Pakistani diplomacy. Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the United Arab Emirates, was scheduled to go to Islamabad on Monday, but the trip was abruptly postponed due to bad weather.
An International Monetary Fund group is scheduled to visit Pakistan on Tuesday as part of the process to unlock a bailout loan to stop the nation from defaulting.