Islamabad: At least 23 people were killed and over 50 injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a Shia mosque in Pakistan's restive Northwest on Friday as worshippers were leaving after Friday prayers. The attacker detonated his explosives in a narrow alley near the imambargah at Pat Bazar in Hangu town of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. The bomber struck as worshippers were leaving the imambargah after prayers and people were going into a nearby Sunni mosque, witnesses said.
Hangu district police chief Mian Mohammad Saeed confirmed the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber. Other officials said they had found the head and body parts of the attacker. Saeed said the attack had targeted Shias but people leaving the Sunni mosque were also among the victims. No group claimed responsibility for the attack. Hangu, which has a sizeable Shia population, has witnessed several sectarian attacks in the past few years.
Security forces cordoned off the area as rescue teams took the injured and bodies to nearby hospitals. Eight persons with serious injuries were transferred to the provincial capital of Peshawar, state-run PTV reported. Footage on television showed several shops near the mosque were destroyed by the blast, their walls pitted with shrapnel. Police officials said an estimated eight kilogrammes of explosives were used in the attack.
The bombing created tension in Hangu, which is located adjacent to the lawless tribal belt where several militant groups, including the Taliban, are active. On January 10, a twin suicide attack in Quetta killed 92 Hazara Shias the highest toll in a single attack on Shias, who make up 20 per cent of Pakistan s population of 180 million. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which is linked to al Qaeda and the Taliban, has carried out dozens of attacks on Shias.