Peshawar: Bodies were still being pulled Tuesday from the wreckage of a mosque blast at a police headquarters in northwestern Pakistan that killed more than 90 people and wounded 150 more.
The attack happened during afternoon prayers on Monday in the provincial capital Peshawar, close to areas along the Afghan border where militancy has been steadily rising.
Overnight, at least nine bodies were recovered as rescuers sifted through the rubble of the mosque’s blown out wall and collapsed roof for survivors. “I remained trapped under the rubble with a dead body over me for seven hours. I had lost all hopes for survival,” Wajahat Ali, a 23-year-old police constable, told AFP from hospital on Tuesday.
Muhammad Asim Khan, a spokesman for the main hospital in Peshawar, told AFP the toll had risen to 89 as more bodies arrived from the scene. Around 150 more were wounded, officials said.
City police chief Muhammad Ijaz Khan told AFP more than 90 percent of the victims were policemen, between 300 and 400 of whom had gathered in the compound’s mosque for prayers.
“This morning we are going to remove the last part of the collapsed roof so we can recover more bodies, but we are not hopeful of reaching any survivors,” Bilal Ahmad Faizi, a spokesperson for the rescue organisation 1122, told AFP.
Police officer Shahid Ali said the explosion took place seconds after the imam started prayers. “I saw black smoke rising to the sky. I ran out to save my life,” the 47-year-old told AFP.
At least 20 of the slain police officers were later buried after a prayer ceremony, with coffins lined up in rows and draped in the Pakistani flag.
They were laid to rest with a guard of honour, a police official told AFP. “Terrorists want to create fear by targeting those who perform the duty of defending Pakistan,” Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said in a statement.