The suicide bomber at police headquarters in Peshawar, Pakistan, wore a police uniform and helmet, which allowed him to slip through checks and kill 84 people, according to a downgraded record.
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The officers on duty “did not check him because he was in police uniform (…). It was a security breach,” Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Police Chief Moazzam Jah Ansari said at a news conference on Thursday.
Hundreds of police officers were attending a prayer at the police headquarters mosque on Monday afternoon when the blast occurred and brought down a wall, crushing officers under.
The attack left 84 dead, according to a downwardly revised death toll due to the “double registration” of some deaths by families, Peshawar City Police Chief Muhammad Ijaz Khan told AFP.
He said 83 of the dead were police officers. A civilian living and working at the site was also killed.
This is one of the deadliest attacks in Pakistan in several years and since the resurgence of violence in the region after the Taliban captured Kabul on August 15, 2021.
Police have a “fairly accurate idea” of the author’s identity after linking CCTV images to his head, which was found at the scene of the blast.
“There’s a whole network behind it,” Mr. Ansari added, explaining that the attack was not planned by its sole author.
Authorities are investigating how a major security breach may have occurred in one of the city’s most tightly controlled areas, home to intelligence and counter-terrorism offices and adjacent to the regional secretariat.
Authorities are also investigating the possibility that people close to the headquarters may have helped coordinate the attack, a senior city police official said on condition of anonymity.
“We have arrested people from the police (headquarters) to investigate how the explosives got inside and whether police officers were involved in the attack,” the officer told AFP.
According to the same source, at least 23 people were arrested. Some come from former tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan, neighboring Peshawar.
The attack plunged the city back into a state of tension not seen since more than a decade ago, when it was the scene of rampant Pakistani Taliban (TTP) militancy, who were subsequently driven toward the mountainous border and Afghanistan .
Experts say TTP fighters have grown bolder since NATO and US troops withdrew from Afghanistan and the Taliban captured Kabul.
Security forces have since been the target of an increasing number of attacks, often taking place at checkpoints.
Most of these actions are claimed by the Pakistani Taliban or the regional branch of the Islamic State jihadist group, but the attacks, which are responsible for many deaths, remain rare.
The TTP distanced itself from the attack on the Peshawar mosque and said it no longer attacks places of worship.
However, police said authorities are investigating whether anyone belonging to the group was responsible for the attack.