By Anna Chiaradonna || Contributing Writer

Citizens of Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan are witnessing the deadliest bombing the country has seen in years. With a harrowing death toll of over 100, the attack occurred on Monday, the 30th of January, at a mosque frequented by police officers. 

The northwest of Pakistan has been the target of several attacks on police and military personnel, especially in areas that straddle the Afghani border. Although the Pakistani Taliban denied playing a part in this attack, a junior group commander claimed online that the bombings happened to avenge the killing of a Taliban leader, who died in August. 

Shabbir Afridi, a 40-year-old government employee, was standing near the mosque at the time of the attack. He recalls the bloodshed by saying, “It was a deafening explosion, and I fell on the ground. When I ran toward the mosque, I saw dust and bodies everywhere.” 

At the time of the explosion, more than 300 worshipers filled the mosque. The roof caved in from impact, trapping many people under the debris. Akbar Khan, an official of the Edhi Foundation, which runs a rescue service, says that “most of the people are still trapped under the rubble. We fear that the number of casualties could increase.” Most of the wounded were sent to the nearby Lady Reading Hospital, a state-run medical facility. Doctors struggled to move the wounded to operation rooms while relatives flooded the hospital, frantically searching for information about their loved ones. According to hospital officials, people were asked to donate blood for the injured — at least 217 were confirmed wounded. 

The city of Peshawar has been mangled by terrorism over the past several decades. In the 1980s, the city became one of the vital staging grounds of local and international fighters in their struggle against the Soviet-backed Afghan government. In recent years, Taliban militants attacked an army-run public school in the winter of 2014, killing 147 students and teachers. The last terrorist attack on Peshawar was also a suicide bombing, which targeted a mosque in March 2022 and killed more than 60 people. 

Khawaja Muhammad Asif, the country’s defense minister, told GEO TV that “A large part of the KP province is in a state of war.” He believes the security in the province has significantly declined after the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan last summer. Although the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan Taliban are separate entities, they pull from similar ideological and religious meanings. Many Pakistan Taliban commanders have found safety in Afghanistan. 

The recent growth in violence comes as Mr. Sharif, the prime minister, grapples with revitalizing Pakistan’s weak economy. “This is especially challenging for the country, as the surge in terrorist violence has come at a time when the economy is on the brink and politics is deeply polarized,” said Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States. “Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies need to step up efforts to contain the surge in terrorist activity since the Taliban’s return to power in neighboring Afghanistan.”

Sources: 

https://www.cnn.com/2023/01/31/asia/pakistan-peshawar-mosque-blast-tuesday-intl-hnk/index.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-64451936

First-year Anna Chiaradonna is a contributing writer. Her email is achiarad@fandm.edu.

By TCR