Security guards and rescue workers search for bodies after the explosion at a mosque in Peshawar
Photo: Zubair Khan / dpa
After the alleged suicide attack in Peshawar, the number of reported victims continues to rise.
Around 60 people were reportedly killed in an explosion at a mosque inside the police headquarters in the Pakistani city on Monday.
The news agency AFP reports 61 people, the agencies AP and Reuters each of 59 fatalities.
Many police officers are said to be among the dead.
More than 150 other people were injured, said hospital and government officials in the northwestern city near the Afghan border on Monday.
According to the AP and Reuters, it was a suicide bombing.
However, no group initially claimed responsibility for the crime.
The blast happened during afternoon prayers at the mosque, according to police, in the second row of worshipers.
An AFP journalist reported on emergency services carrying the dead into an ambulance.
Accordingly, the roof and walls of the mosque had partially collapsed.
According to Peshawar Police Chief Muhammad Ijaz Khans, between 300 and 400 officers usually attend prayers at the mosque.
The number of victims could therefore continue to rise.
Peshawar's police headquarters is one of the most heavily secured places in the city.
The building also houses offices of the secret service and anti-terrorist forces.
António Guterres condemned "suicide attack"
After the blast, security forces across Pakistan were put on high alert.
Checkpoints were strengthened, additional security forces mobilized.
In the capital, Islamabad, snipers were stationed on rooftops and along the city's access roads.
"Terrorists want to spread fear by targeting those defending Pakistan," Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is currently visiting the Middle East, expressed his condolences to the victims and described the Peshawar incident as a "horrific attack".
According to a spokesman, UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the "suicide attack" "strongly".
"It is particularly despicable that such an attack should take place in a house of worship."
Police officer Shahid Ali, who survived the incident, reported that the blast happened just seconds after the Imam started the prayer.
"I saw black smoke rising and ran for my life," the 47-year-old told AFP.
"I can still hear people screaming, people calling for help."
It is still unclear who is behind the attack
In recent months there have been repeated attacks in Peshawar, particularly on security forces.
In March 2022, a suicide bomber from the jihadist militia "Islamic State" (IS) carried out an attack on a mosque belonging to the Shiite minority in Peshawar, killing 64 people.
It was the deadliest attack in Pakistan since 2018.
The Pakistani branch of the radical Islamic Taliban, which operates under the name Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), is also active in the region.
The radical Sunni group is not affiliated with the Taliban government in Afghanistan, but the two share common roots.
In Peshawar, TTP fighters carried out a massacre in 2014: They raided a school looking for children of army personnel and killed almost 150 people, most of whom were schoolchildren.
In the years that followed, the security situation in Peshawar initially improved considerably.
The TTP, founded in 2007, regained strength after the Taliban took power in Afghanistan.
In the past year, she has claimed responsibility for several attacks in Pakistan, most of which were aimed at security forces.
A month-long ceasefire between the TTP and the Pakistani government expired in November.