Saturday , July 2 2022

Pakistan Identifies Peshawar Suicide Bomber and Network, Police Say

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Pakistani police investigators said on Saturday that they had identified the suicide bomber and the network behind the deadly blast on Friday at a Shiite mosque in Peshawar, in northwestern Pakistan, that left at least 63 dead and nearly 200 wounded.

Thirty-seven people remained hospitalized, with five in critical condition, according to Muhammad Asim Khan, the spokesman for Peshawar’s largest hospital, Lady Reading.

The Islamic State’s regional affiliate, Islamic State Khorasan, or ISIS-K, claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was carried out by an Afghan suicide bomber, whom the militant group identified as Julaibeed al-Kabuli.

Pakistani security officials said that the name was an alias and that they had identified the attacker and his family. Muhammad Ali Saif, a special assistant to the provincial chief minister, said at a news conference on Saturday that “the rest of the network will be exposed in the next 48 hours.” He declined to share more details, citing operational sensitivities.

Other security officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case and continuing investigations, said the bomber was an Afghan national who had migrated to Pakistan decades ago and lived in the country along with his family. The officials said the bomber’s parents had informed the police of their son’s disappearance and suspected he had joined ISIS.

Investigators say the bomber trained in Afghanistan and appeared to have returned recently.

A senior Pakistani police official said the police had made significant progress in their investigation, combing through hours of CCTV footage and forensic evidence to identify the attacker’s network.

The bombing on Friday adds a new complexity for law enforcement agencies that are already confronting a resurgent Taliban in Pakistan. Baluch separatists in the country’s southwest have also carried out attacks in recent months.

Security officials say ISIS-K continues to operate from neighboring Afghanistan, but after being targeted by the Afghan Taliban, it has dispersed across the country, no longer operates in large groups and holds no physical territory.

Officials monitoring the militants’ situation in Afghanistan say that nearly 1,600 ISIS-K fighters escaped when the Taliban overran the notorious Pul-e-Charkhi prison on the outskirts of Kabul, the Afghan capital, shortly before taking it over in August.

The Taliban have either captured or killed nearly half of the escaped ISIS-K militants since then, but many are still at large, including some Pakistanis, officials say.

Pakistan approached the new Taliban leadership in Kabul for information regarding the escaped militants, but was told that whatever prison records existed had been burned shortly before the Taliban took the prison, according to a Pakistani security official.

In Peshawar on Saturday, a pall enveloped the old part of the city as funeral prayers were held for several of the dead. Many families of the dead planned to bury their loved ones in Peshawar, while others planned to bury them in their native Kurram tribal district on the border with Afghanistan.

Ismail Khan reported from Peshawar, and Salman Masood from Islamabad, Pakistan.


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