A suicide bombing at a mosque in the Pakistani city of Peshawar has resulted in at least 61 deaths and more than 170 injuries.
The explosion occurred as 300 worshippers were worshipping at a mosque in the Police Lines area of the city, home to the police headquarters. As more remains were recovered from the location, the death toll jumped to 61, according to a representative from Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar. Police reported that 27 of the deceased were officers.
According to local police officer Zafar Khan, the explosion caused the collapse of the mosque’s roof and one wall, as well as numerous injuries.
Witnesses reported that the explosion occurred in the main hall just as afternoon prayers were about to begin, with people crowded in tightly. According to official reports, the bomber was in the front row.
A commander of the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the incident, stating it was in retaliation for the death of a fighter in Afghanistan the previous year.
But hours later, a TTP official distanced the group from the explosion, claiming it was not its policy to target mosques, seminaries and religious places. His statement did not address the previous accusation of culpability.
The TTP, which is thought to be affiliated with al-Qaida, has waged a 15-year insurgency in Pakistan, fighting for stronger implementation of Islamic law and the release of imprisoned members, and has been responsible for several deadly attacks in the past.