Thursday 19 September 2019

35 killed in mosque suicide attack

Gunmen have attacked a mosque in the Pakistan city of Rawalpindi
Gunmen have attacked a mosque in the Pakistan city of Rawalpindi
Soldiers stand guard near the mosque following the attack (AP)

Suicide attackers have stormed a mosque close to Pakistan's army headquarters, killing 35 people during Friday prayers.

They sprayed gunfire at worshippers and threw grenades before blowing themselves up, officials said.

The strike by at least two gunmen was part of a wave of bloodshed that has killed more than 400 people in Pakistan since October.

It was a bloody reminder of the resilience of militant networks despite army offensives against the Taliban in the north-west regions bordering Afghanistan.

Two hours after the attack began, occasional gunshots were still being heard from inside the heavily fortified area in the garrison city of Rawalpindi just a few miles from the capital. Reporters were kept away from the scene.

Three helicopters hovered overhead while trucks carrying commando teams and ambulances raced through the cordoned-off area as soldiers kept onlookers and traffic away.

The attack, the third to target Rawalpindi in nearly two months, began when several gunmen staged an explosion to break through a checkpoint close to the mosque, which was popular with army officers, said Yasir Nawaz, a police official at the scene. He said the installation included an army parade ground as well as the mosque, which was often used by military officers.

Two of the assailants were able to enter the mosque and sprayed the congregation with gunfire and grenades, said military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas. He said there were other attackers, but provided no details about them.

An intelligence official said 35 people were killed, their bodies taken to two hospitals close to the scene. Seventy others were wounded.

Violence in nuclear-armed Pakistan has escalated since the army launched an offensive in mid-October against Taliban militants in the north-western tribal area of South Waziristan near the Afghan border. Soldiers have pushed deep into what was a militant stronghold, but many insurgents appear to have fled.

PA Media

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