Pakistani authorities scrambled on Tuesday to determine how a suicide bomber was able to carry out one of the country’s deadliest militant attacks in years, unleashing an explosion in a crowded mosque inside a highly secured police compound in the city of Peshawar. The death toll from the blast climbed to 100.
Monday morning’s bombing, which left at least 225 wounded, raised alarm among officials over a major security breach at a time when the Pakistani Taliban, the main anti-government militant group, has stepped up attacks, particularly targeting the police and the military.
In a televised speech to parliament Tuesday, Defense Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif accused the Pakistani Taliban, known by the acronym TTP, of carrying out the attack, saying they were operating from neighboring Afghan territory and demanding the Afghan Taliban take action against them. A TTP commander earlier claimed responsibility, but a spokesman for the group later distanced the TTP from the carnage, saying it was not its policy to attack mosques.
More than 300 worshippers were praying in the Sunni mosque, with more approaching, when the bomber set off his explosives vest, officials said. The blast blew off part of the roof, and what was left caved in, injuring many more, according to Zafar Khan, a police officer.