ISIS claims responsibility for Shi'ite mosque attack in Pakistan

At least 58 people were killed and nearly 200 injured in the attack. PHOTO: REUTERS

PESHAWAR (REUTERS) - The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a Shi'ite Muslim mosque during Friday (March 4) prayers in the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar.

The group made its claim in a statement, making the incident one of the biggest attacks it has carried out in Pakistan.

At least 58 people were killed and nearly 200 others  injured, hospital officials said.

An armed man who arrived near the mosque on a motorcycle opened fire when he was stopped by police, before forcing his way into a crowded hall and detonating his suicide vest, senior police official Haroon Rasheed said.

The attacker first shot at the police guards at the mosque's entrance, killing one of them, he said.

"The armed man entered the mosque and started firing on the worshippers and finally blew himself up," Mr Rasheed added.

Police previously said there were two men on the motorcycle.

The attack is one of the deadliest in years on Pakistan's Shi'ite minority, which has long been targeted by Sunni Muslim militants, including the ISIS and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, also known as the Pakistani Taliban.

Members of the Pakistani Taliban distanced themselves from the attack in a message sent to Reuters.

Many of the injured are in critical condition, officials at the nearby Lady Reading Hospital said, updating the previous toll.

Mr Sardar Hussain, who lost three relatives in the blast, said the mosque was the only place of worship for the Shi'ite community in Peshawar's old city.

Attacks by insurgents had become an almost daily occurrence in Pakistan until the military launched a crackdown on militants in 2014.

Members of the Pakistani Shi'ite Muslim community at the funeral of the victims who were killed in a bomb blast at a Shi'ite mosque in Peshawar, Pakistan, on March 4, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

'Panic spread'

Worshippers at the mosque in Peshawar had gathered for Friday prayers, when congregations are usually the largest.

"Panic spread among the worshippers when the firing started. I ran to save my life," one man, who did not give his name, told Reuters at a hospital where he was being treated for his injuries.

"Suddenly, a man came in and started firing... He shot many people (and) then closed his eyes and blew himself up. After that, I have no idea what happened," he said.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the bombing, according to his office.

The attack comes as the Australian cricket team is touring Pakistan for the first time in more than two decades and staying in Islamabad, 140km from Peshawar.

Pakistan recently started hosting international teams again after security concerns forced them to move many of their high-profile international events to the United Arab Emirates.

Following the blast, Australian cricket coach Andrew McDonald said the team touring Pakistan will be guided by security experts.

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