Peshawar: The Islamic State says a lone Afghan suicide bomber struck inside a Shiite Muslim mosque in Pakistan's northwestern city of Peshawar during Friday prayers, killing at least 56 worshippers and wounding 194 people.
The Islamic State affiliate in the region known as Islamic State in Khorasan province and headquartered in Afghanistan claimed Friday's devastating attack in a statement translated by the SITE Intelligence group.
The statement was posted on the group's Amaq News Agency. The statement identified the attacker as Afghan, posted his picture and said Islamic State fighters are constantly targeting Shi'ites living in Pakistan and Afghanistan despite the intense security measures adopted by the Taliban militia and the Pakistani police to secure Shi'a temples and centers.
The carnage at the mosque buried deep inside the narrow streets of Peshawar's old city was horrific.
According to the spokesman at Peshawar's Lady Reading Hospital, Asim Khan, many of the wounded were in critical condition. Scores of victims were peppered with shrapnel, several had limbs amputated and others were injured by flying debris.
Peshawar Police Chief Muhammed Ejaz Khan said the violence started when an armed attacker opened fire on police outside the mosque in Peshawar's old city. One policeman was killed in the gunfight, and another police officer was wounded. The attacker then ran inside the mosque and detonated his suicide vest.
The suicide bomber had strapped a powerful explosive device to his body, packed with 5 kilograms (12 pounds) of explosives, said Moazzam Jah Ansari, the top police official for Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province where Peshawar is the capital.
The device was hidden beneath a large black shawl that covered much of the attacker's body, according to CCTV footage seen by The Associated Press. The footage showed the bomber moving quickly up a narrow street toward the mosque entrance. He fired at the police protecting the mosque before entering inside.