Tamil Diplomat

Explosions and gunfire at Pakistan prayer hall

Pakistani Taliban continued their deadly sectarian campaign on Friday with an assault by suicide attackers on a packed prayer hall full of Shia worshippers that left 19 dead.

A further 40 people were injured when up to five militants stormed the Imamia Masjid Imambargah in central Peshawar, the troubled city in Pakistan’s north-west where more than 130 teenage boys were killed in December’s Army Public School massacre.The attack was launched during Friday prayers, the busiest moment of the week, and executed by young men carrying grenades, assault rifles and suicide bomb vests.The provincial police chief Nasir Durrani said the men avoided guards on the main gate of the hall by climbing over a wall from a neighbouring construction site and cutting through barbed wire.

Security had been posted at the entrance as the compound is an obvious target for sectarian terrorists and close to various government buildings.Two men died after detonating their bombs and another three were killed by worshippers, according to Durrani.“People here showed great courage. They grabbed one of the attackers from his neck, and he couldn’t detonate [his explosives], and he was shot and killed,” Durrani said.

Local television showed chaotic scenes of worshippers fleeing the ongoing attack, some carrying the injured to safety.The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the country’s largest militant alliance, immediately claimed responsibility, saying it was revenge for the execution by the government of a militant known as Dr Usman, a former army medic involved in a 2009 attack on the army’s headquarters.