At least 65 people were killed Friday afternoon in a suicide bombing at a mosque in northwestern Pakistan filled with worshipers, the latest major terrorist strike on houses of worship in the country.
Pakistani television reported that militants also carried out a grenade attack on a mosque in the Badhber area outside Peshawar. According to initial reports, three worshipers were killed and 15 were injured in that attack Friday evening.
The first blast occurred in Darra Adam Khel, a town just outside Pakistan’s largely lawless tribal belt, where Taliban and Al Qaeda militants have strongholds. At least 300 people had gathered in the Wali Muhammad mosque for prayers Friday afternoon when the bomb went off, collapsing the roof of the building, local authorities said.
It was Pakistan’s deadliest terrorist attack since early September, when 65 people died in a suicide bombing at a Shiite Muslim procession in the southern city of Quetta.
Television footage showed ambulances racing to Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, northwestern Pakistan’s largest city, and dropping off wounded men in blood-soaked tunics. The blast injured more than 70 people, some of them children. Authorities said the bomber was a teenager.
A Pakistani television channel, Geo, reported that the Pakistani Taliban had claimed responsibility for the attack.
Darra Adam Khel is known as a hub for firearms production and sales, and sections of the town are used by Taliban militants as havens. Though the Pakistani army has launched offensives against militants in several tribal regions along the Afghan border, it has failed to prevent extremists from carrying out suicide bomb attacks throughout northwestern Pakistan, as well as in the country’s urban centers.
Several attacks this year have targeted mosques or shrines linked to sects or groups that the Taliban and other Islamic militants oppose.
In July, twin suicide blasts killed 42 people visiting Pakistan’s most popular Sufi shrine, Data Darbar, in Lahore. Last month, two suicide bombers attacked crowds visiting a shrine in the nation’s largest city, Karachi, killing at least eight people and wounding 65. The blasts in Karachi targeted a large gathering at a shrine for Abdullah Shah Ghazi, an 8th century Sufi saint. Islamic militant groups regard the Sufi strain of Islam to be tantamount to heresy.
In May, a team of gunmen and suicide bombers killed 93 people in attacks on two mosques in Lahore belonging to the minority Ahmadi sect.
Special correspondent Ali reported from Peshawar. Rodriguez reported from Islamabad.