Terrorist Attack On Shia Mosque In Kocha Risaldar Leaves 62 Dead

A suicide bombing in a Shia mosque in the Kocha Risaldar area of Peshawar, Pakistan this Friday has taken the lives of 62 individuals, 7 of them children aged below 10, reports from local hospital authorities confirmed. The bombing, which also resulted in 194 injuries, has had a catastrophic impact on the community, taking place as almost 150 frequenters of the Jamia Masjid Kocha Risaldar gathered for Jummah prayers. The Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad alongside police forces have reported that the three perpetrators have been identified, with witnesses describing a first attacker entering the mosque on foot and shooting the guards before detonating explosives. 

Kocha Risaldar, a predominantly Shia population in a majority Sunni country, has been subject to increasing violence and terrorism over the years. Inside the mosque at the time of the explosion, Sher Ali, a retired army officer, illustrated the struggle for the Shia minority saying in an interview with the Associated Press, “What is our sin? What have we done? Aren’t we citizens of this country?” Another eyewitness account recounted the horror of the scene in an interview with Al Jazeera, saying, “First I heard five to six gunshots and then I saw the suicide bomber enter the mosque and a huge explosion occurred… The doors of my house opened with a bang and I fell down on the ground. When I entered the mosque, there was smoke and dust and people were lying in blood.” 

The Islamic State group, specifically its Khorasan chapter (IS-K) claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing via its website. Although based in Afghanistan, it has begun to shift its attention to neighboring Pakistan and targeting the Shia population — Friday’s attack marking one of the biggest terrorist attacks in the city since a 2020 mosque classroom bombing in Dir Colony that killed 8 students and injured 120. A diverse array of local government officials, police chiefs, military officials and more met to discuss security measures after the attack, and calls for “effective measures to prevent such attacks and ensure the security of all religious places” were made. Attacks against religious and ethnic minorities have increased in recent years, with IS-K adopting an intense and directed assault of Shia and other populations. In September, a Sikh herbalist was murdered by IS-K members, and in January a Christian priest was also killed. Reports in DAWN question the government’s commitment to genuinely establishing legislation to protect these minority communities in Pakistan, as these past incidents were not conducive to potent structural security changes. It is important for the government to implement security policy that protects these minority communities from violence, and discourages distribution of hateful ideology, as many innocent lives hang in the balance.