The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for a deadly blast in a mosque in Peshawar on Monday, the latest attack on the city in northwest Pakistan.
A powerful explosion killed at least 61 people and left about 157 injured, according to Peshawar Police Chief Mohammad Aijaz Khan.
Rescue operations are now underway in the mosque, which is situated inside a police compound and is mostly attended by law enforcement officials.
Sarbakaf Mohmand and Omar Mukaram Khurasani – two officials from the Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) – put out statements saying the blast was “revenge” for the death of TTP militant Khalid Khorasani last year.
The TTP is a US-designated foreign terrorist organization operating in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. CNN cannot independently verify the group’s claims.
In a statement to CNN, Khan, the Peshawar police chief, earlier said the incident inside the Police Lines Mosque was “probably a suicide attack,” echoing Pakistan 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.”
Sharif added that “the entire nation and institutions are united to end terrorism” and that there’s a “comprehensive strategy” in the works in order to restore law and order in the northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where Peshawar is located.
The prime minister went to Peshawar following the deadly blast and visited Lady Reading Hospital to meet those injured, his office said.
“Just returned from Peshawar. The sheer scale of the human tragedy is unimaginable. This is no less than an attack on Pakistan. The nation is overwhelmed by a deep sense of grief. I have no doubt terrorism is our foremost national security challenge,” Sharif posted on Twitter.
“My message to the perpetrators of today’s despicable incident is that you can’t underestimate the resolve of our people,” he added.
Pakistan’s former leader Imran Khan, whose party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf holds the provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkwa, also condemned the blast saying in a tweet that “it is imperative we improve our intelligence gathering & properly equip our police forces to combat the growing threat of terrorism.”
The city of Peshawar – which is located at the edge of Pakistan’s tribal districts that border Afghanistan – has frequently been the site of attacks by the TTP and other militant groups.
The Islamic State (ISIS) said they were responsible for an attack on a Shia mosque in Peshawar in March 2022. That blast killed at least 61 people and injured another 196.
TTP’s central spokesman Muhammad Khurasani is yet to comment on Monday’s attack.