Peshawar ( AsiaNews) - The death toll from a blast that struck a prayer center in the heart of Peshawar , a city in northern Pakistan has risen to 11 dead and over 65 injured. The city was already the scene of a bloody attack on a Protestant church last September. The attack took place yesterday evening and had as its objective the participants in the procession of Shab-e - Juma, organized to promote peace and religious harmony among the different souls of the country . The place of worship is used by the Shia community , as well as by the Deobandi movement and other minor groups .
Police sources reported that the
explosion was triggered by a remote device and that the bomb contained at least
5 kg of explosive. Emergency crews immediately intervened, transferring the
wounded to hospitals in the area for medical treatment.
However, the toll of the attack could be even worse: the investigators found two other devices connected to a mobile phone, on the second floor in the Islamic center for prayer. A bomb squad defused the bomb, preventing other victims. Rudimentary bombs of the same make were also found in a prayer center in the city of Nowshera , also located in the northern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
According to some sources, the Taliban admitted its responsibility in the attack, but Tehrik- e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) condemns the attack and its spokesman Shahidullah Shahid denies any involvement , while claiming three other attacks that targeted police barracks in Malakand , Shangla and Mansehra.
The Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan's main political leaders of have expressed sympathy for the victims and invite religious leaders to promote tolerance. Chairman Ulema Council Maulana Tahir Ashrafi said, "This is indeed a sad incident, we see our shia brothers being brutally killed and the state is the silent observer ". He recalls the attempt at dialogue between the government and the Taliban, but pointed out the lack of "seriousness" in pursuing the matter. He concludes by asking how we can promote peace in a nation in which " even leaders are not safe " and " minorities suffer " more and more".
Ghor Babar , spokesman for the Motahida Qaumi Movement (MQM ) , explains that " it is not possible to hold talks with those who kill Chaudhry Aslam and try in every way to conspire against Pakistan and peace." Speaking to AsiaNews Fr . Anwar Patras , parish priest in Nowshera , condemned the attack and expressed his deepest condolences to the victims on behalf of the Christian community . "It is an attempt to exacerbate sectarian violence - says the priest - and for this we have to work harder for peace and harmony among religions." We stand with those who suffer , he adds, and " pray for them. Enough bloodshed ."
Pakistan has more than 180 million people (97 per cent Muslim), making it the sixth most populous country in the world and the second largest Muslim nation after Indonesia. About 80 per cent is Sunni Muslim. Shias are almost 20 per cent; Hindus are around 1.85 per cent; Christians are 1.6 per cent and Sikhs, 0.04 per cent. Violence, abuse or acts of discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities occur across the country, with Christians and Shia Muslims especially targeted by Islamic fundamentalists.