The bombing of a mosque in northwestern Pakistan has killed at least 30 people

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) – A powerful bomb exploded at a Shi’ite Muslim mosque in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Friday, killing at least 30 worshipers and injuring dozens, many in critical condition, police said.

Local police spokesman Wahid Khan said the blast occurred when worshipers gathered at the Kucha Rysaldar mosque in the old town of Peshawar for Friday prayers. Ambulances raced through the congested narrow streets, taking the wounded to Lady Reading’s hospital, where doctors were working feverishly.

Peshawar police chief Mohammed Ejaz Khan said the violence began when two gunmen opened fire on police near a mosque. One attacker and one policeman were killed in the shootout, and another police officer was injured. The rest of the attacker ran into the mosque and detonated a bomb.

According to eyewitnesses, at least 150 believers were in the mosque at the time of the explosion.

No one has claimed responsibility for the blast, but the Islamic State and the brutal Pakistani Taliban have carried out similar attacks in the region near neighboring Afghanistan.

Shayan Haider, a witness, was preparing to enter the mosque when a powerful explosion threw him out into the street.

“I opened my eyes and there was dust and bodies everywhere,” he said.

Lady Reading’s emergency room at the hospital was in chaos as doctors struggled to move the many wounded to the operating room. Hundreds of relatives gathered near the emergency department, many of them wailing and beating their chests asking for information about their loved ones.

Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the blast.

Retired army officer Sher Ali, who was in the mosque at the time of the blast, was wounded by shrapnel. He made a fervent request to the Government of Pakistan for better protection of Shiite Muslims who are in the minority in the country.

“What is our sin? What did we do? Aren’t we citizens of this country? ” He said from the emergency room, his white clothes splattered with blood.

In Pakistan, where most Sunnis are, Shiite Muslims have been repeatedly attacked.

There has been a widespread increase in violence in Pakistan in recent months. Dozens of servicemen have been killed in dozens of attacks on army outposts along the border with Afghanistan. Many claim the Pakistani Taliban, which analysts say was encouraged by the return of the Afghan Taliban to power last August.

Pakistan has called on Afghanistan’s new leaders to hand over Pakistani Taliban insurgents who have staged their attacks from Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban say their territory will not be used to attack anyone, but so far they have not handed over any Pakistani insurgents.

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