By Islamuddin Sajid
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AA) – The deadly bombing in a mosque in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar that killed 101 people and injured 157 others on Monday has added to tragic memories of a city with a long history of facing terrorism.
The tragic terrorist act was the deadly incident after the 2014 army school attack in the city that claimed the lives of over 140 people, mostly schoolchildren.
Most of the victims were police officers as the suspected suicide bomber blew himself up during midday prayer in the mosque inside the Police Headquarters in Peshawar.
“I have never seen such tragic moments in my service,” Bilal Faizi, spokesman for Rescue 1122, told Anadolu.
Rescue 1122 teams reached the spot within a few minutes after the bombing to shift bodies and the injured to the hospital.
“Apparently, the reason behind massive casualties was the collapse of the mosque building due to the explosion that trapped many people under the rubble,” he said.
According to the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) officials, 49 injured are still under treatment and 107 have been discharged.
“We were praying when suddenly flames flared up and there was a loud explosion and then I don't know what happened as I fell unconscious,” Inamullah, a police constable under treatment in LRH, said.
“I cannot forget that terrible scene,” he told Anadolu, looking back at the tragedy.
January 2023 turned out to be the deadliest month since July 2018 as 134 people were killed and 254 injured in 44 attacks across the country, according to the latest report released by the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS), an Islamabad-based think-tank.
Security forces also killed 44 militants and 52 others were arrested across the country, according to the report.
In 2018, at least 186 people were killed in a suicide bombing in the Mastung area of Balochistan during a political rally.
- 2 friends who lived, and died together
Abni Ameen and Iftikhar Ahmed from Charsadda, a district near Peshawar, were close friends who joined the police department in 2011 and 2015 respectively and lost their lives in the blast.
“Iftikhar was my cousin and he left two daughters aged three and one while Abni Ameen had a year old son,” Ahmed’s cousin Jamil Dawood said.
“Both of them were very close friends since school times and Iftikhar joined the police because of his friend,” he added.
Most of the people joining police lower ranks belong to middle or poor-class families in the country of 220 million people where, according to the UNDP “Multidimensional Poverty Index 2022,” the intensity of deprivation, which is the average deprivation score among people living in multidimensional poverty, is 51.7%.
“Iftikhar hailed from a very poor family and I don’t know how his family will survive now,” Dawood said.
- ‘Save my life, please’
Around 160 injured were brought to the LRH, the nearest hospital, located a mile away from Police Headquarters where doctors treated and discharged around 107 people while 49 are still in the hospital.
“I treated 20 injured and some of them were in critical condition. But, I cannot forget two of them I couldn’t save. They lost breath in my hands,” Dr. Tahir Khan told Anadolu.
“One of the police officers, Irfanullah, had head injuries and I did my best to save his life but couldn’t succeed. I cannot forget his last words when he was shouting and saying ‘doctor, please save my life,’” Khan recalled the moments when he was fighting for the life of blast victims.
“I kept doing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) for 30 minutes despite my team saying that he has died and I cried for the man.”
“I saw some photos of his daughters in his pocket. I will never forget that moment,” he said.
Narrating another story of an aged man who also had brain injuries, Khan said the old man was shouting and demanding that his son be brought to the hospital.
“I told him, I am your son and trying to do everything for you. But still, he was crying and saying, bring my son,” the doctor narrated.
- Protest rallies
Devastated by the loss of their colleagues, policemen on Wednesday held protest rallies in several cities of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province demanding a fair investigation into the Peshawar bomb blast. It was a rare event that policemen, along with a large number of people, took to the streets demanding better actions against terrorism.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police chief Moazzam Jah Ansari said on Thursday that the police was “closing in” on the terror network behind the attack, revealing that the bomber “was clad in a police uniform.”
Earlier on Tuesday, he told a press conference that the initial investigations show that 10-12 kilograms of explosive material were used in the bombing.
“We are investigating how the explosive was brought inside the police line,” he said.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a conglomerate of several militant groups, has denied involvement in the attack on its propaganda website.
Commenting on the responsibility claims and denials by different militant groups, Ansari said "the police don't believe in such exaggerated claims until proved by investigations."
He contended that Jamat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter faction of the TTP, could be involved in the bombing, which ranked the deadliest in recent years.
“The ISKP (Islamic State Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) has also claimed responsibility for the attack, which we are investigating,” he maintained.