Peshawar: A suicide bomb attack ripped through a crowded mosque during Friday prayers in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least 56 worshippers and wounding around 190 others, in one of the deadliest attacks on a Muslim place of worship in the world this year. The casualties could go up further, doctors told reporters in Peshawar city.
According to reports a suicide bomber gate crashed into Shia Jamia mosque in Qissa Khwani bazaar area of Peshawar city and blew himself up among the people offering Friday prayers.
One witness saw the attacker clad in black Shalwar-Kameez rush into the mosque during Friday prayers and open "fire with a pistol", picking out the worshippers "one-by-one".
He "then blew himself up", Ali Asghar said.
Police said that the explosives used in the attack were homemade, weighing around five to six kilograms. Ball bearings and other shrapnel producing material were used in the bomb.
A survivor speaking to journalists said, "I opened my eyes and there was dust and bodies everywhere."
As per reports, there were two attackers but only one of them was a suicide bomber. Capital City Police Officer Peshawar Ijaz Ahsan said two attackers tried to enter the mosque and fired at the policemen standing guard. One policeman was killed while the other was critically injured, he said.
An AFP reporter saw body parts strewn at the site, where desperate family members were held back by police. The explosion blew out the windows of nearby buildings.
A spokesman for Peshawar's Lady Reading Hospital said "we have declared an emergency at the hospitals and more injured are being brought".
There was chaos as doctors struggled to move the many wounded into operating theatres. The hospital has been put on red alert, the spokesperson added.
Peshawar -- just 50 kilometres from the porous border with Afghanistan -- was a frequent target of terrorists in the early 2010s but security has greatly improved in recent years.
Sunni majority Pakistan has recently been battling a resurgence of its domestic chapter of the Taliban, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
A one-month truce last year failed to hold and there are fears the TTP -- which has targeted Shia and Sunni Muslims alike in the past -- has been emboldened by the success of the Afghan Taliban.
Shia Muslims in the region have also been targeted by the regional iteration of the ISIS group, Islamic State Khorasan (ISK).
At least 31 people were killed in a suicide blast at a crowded market in Peshawar in 2018.
At least 88 people died and hundreds more were wounded a year earlier when a suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of devotees at a revered Sufi shrine in southern Sindh province.