A bomb targeting a Shia mosque in Pakistan’s northwestern town of Parachinar killed 22 people and injured nearly 70 others on Friday in an attack claimed by a Taliban faction.
The explosion occurred near the women’s entrance of the Shia ‘imambargah’ in the headquarters of Kurram tribal region, located close to the Afghan border, as people gathered for Friday prayers.
The imambargah is located in Shendak bazaar of Parachinar, a town with a Shia majority. Ikramullah Khan, the local political agent, told the media 22 people were killed instantly and 68 were injured.
The Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, claimed the attack in a message sent to the media. The group was behind a wave of attacks across Pakistan in February, including a suicide bombing in Lahore that killed 14 people.
Guards at the imambargah were busy checking people at the women’s entrance when an unidentified person parked a car next to the mosque. Soon after, the explosion occurred.
The Pakistan Army took charge of rescue arrangements and used helicopters to fly the seriously wounded to nearby hospitals.
A parliamentarian from Parachinar, Sajid Hussain, said it was a suicide attack and was preceded by gunfire. “The attack took place in a busy area and a women’s mosque appears to be the target,” he said.
The injured were taken to hospitals in Hangu and Kohat. Officials said they feared the casualties could mount overnight.
Earlier this year, at least 21 people were killed when an explosion hit a vegetable market in Parachinar.
The attacks in February included a suicide blast at a Sufi shrine in Sindh province that killed 90 people and was claimed by Islamic State. The wave of violence dented optimism after Pakistan appeared to be making gains in its war on militancy.
The army launched a crackdown and politicians voted to extend legislation creating military courts to try civilians on terror charges. The law had expired in January, with the controversial tribunals having hanged 12 people and ordered the executions of 149 more.