Conflict & Justice

Pakistan bombings target mosques during Friday prayers, killing at least 13


Local Pakistani residents and volunteers inspect a mosque following a bomb explosion in Peshawar on March 9, 2013.


Hasham Ahmed

Two bombings outside mosques in Pakistan's northwest killed at least 13 people and injured 45 others, as the country's new government grapples with the continued presence of militant violence. 

The blasts went off during Friday prayers at two Sunni mosques in Baz Darrah village, a mountainous area west of Pakistan’s Swat Valley. They come just days after Pakistan elected a new government in the first democratic transition of power in 66 years. 

The death toll could rise, as rescue workers worked to find the dead and wounded within the rubble. 

"We brought those bodies out soon after the explosion, but I don't know what the situation is there now," Hayatullah, a local rescue volunteer, told RadioFree Europe. "The mosque hall has the capacity for 200 to 250 people, and it has fully caved in."

No group has taken responsibility for the attacks yet, but the Pakistani Taliban is largely suspected of being behind them. 

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"A bomb on the heels of the elections — which were greatly regarded as a democratic success — shows that the Taliban, or whichever militant group eventually takes responsibility for the attacks, are sending a clear message: We still disapprove of the administration, and will not be relenting during this transitory period," said GlobalPost's correspondent in Karachi Mariya Karimjee. 

She added that the decision to target Sunnis is particularly shocking, as the Taliban — Sunni Muslims themselves — usually targets groups they believe don't subscribe to their version of Islam. 

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose Muslim League-N party won last weekend's elections, has called for negotiations with the Taliban to stop the violence in Pakistan. 

"The bombings also place pressure on the new government to set a precedent with whatever military operation they decide to carry out in the region," Karimjee said. "Are they going to take a hardline stance against extremism? How will this administration handle the military? Those are all questions that will need to be addressed now, sooner rather than later." 

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