PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Two explosions killed at least 71 people in mosques in Pakistan’s northwest on Friday, officials said, after a relative lull in militant violence.
In one attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up as Friday prayers were ending, killing at least 66 people, provincial government officials said. The attack occurred in Darra Adam Khel, a suburb of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province capital Peshawar.
“Now the death toll is 66. It may rise further because several injured are in critical condition,” Shahid Ullah, a senior provincial government official, told Reuters. He said 80 people were wounded.
Some 300 people had gathered just after prayers when the bomber walked into the Waali Mosque’s main hall and detonated himself, witnesses said.
“I had just finished the prayers when there was a big explosion. It was very terrifying. I don’t know what happened later. I just fell down,” 15-year-old Mohib Ullah said.
Ullah said guards at the mosque gates tried to stop the bomber, but he managed to get in. Officials at the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar said two children were among the dead.
In the second attack, hand grenades were thrown into a mosque on the outskirts of Peshawar during evening prayers, killing at least five people and wounding 11, officials said.
Video from outside the hospital where people were treated after the first explosion showed screaming women, white-bearded old men in blood-stained clothes and a child being wheeled into the emergency room.
Officials said the mosque was owned by a pro-government tribal elder who could have been the target of the attack but it was not clear whether he was hit.
It was the biggest attack in Pakistan since a September suicide bomb attack on a procession of Shi’ite Muslims in the southwestern city of Quetta, which killed 54 people.
Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Chris Allbritton and Jon Hemming