PESHAWAR -- Taliban militants have drawn severe condemnation for carrying out a suicide bombing inside a Mohmand Agency mosque during Friday prayers September 16.
Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Governor Iqbal Zaffar Jhagra and other leaders slammed the militants for targeting innocent people and expressed hope that military action will eliminate violence once and for all.
Jamatul Ahrar, a breakaway faction of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that was designated as a global terrorist group in August, claimed responsibility for the attack in which 28 people died and over 30 sustained injuries.
On September 2 the group killed at least 13 people in a suicide attack at a courthouse in Mardan. August 8 the group killed at least 73 people in an attack on a hospital in Quetta. And in March, it attacked Gulshan-i-Iqbal park in Lahore, killing 75 and injuring at least 300.
Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack and vowed to continue battling terrorists until the end.
“We will remain steadfast against extremism,” a statement from the prime minister's office said. "The cowardly attacks by terrorists cannot shatter the government's resolve to eliminate terrorism from the country."
“Terrorists are now targeting sacred places after their massive defeat as a result of the military operation,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said in a televised statement.
Operation Zarb-e-Azb has been crucial in the fight against terrorism, for which the army, police and people need appreciation, he said.
"Shocked at condemnable terror attack in mosque in Mohmand Agency with devastating death toll of worshippers praying at the time," Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan said via social media.
Seven of the wounded, including two children, were airlifted by a Pakistan Army helicopter to Combined Military Hospital Peshawar where their condition was stated to be out of danger.
“We are thankful to army for our rapid transportation and treatment in Peshawar," Fazal Gul, a wounded person receiving treatment at the hospital, told Pakistan Forward.
The people are sick of the Taliban who have made their lives worse, Gul said. "We will continue to support security forces and deny sanctuaries to militants in our area," he said.
“Killing innocent people is against Islam. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) advocated peace but the Taliban misused name of religion to advance their own agenda,” Mulvi Mushtaq, a prayer leader in Taj Abad locality, told Pakistan Forward.
It is highly condemnable to attack a mosque where people gather to seek blessings from God, he said.
“The people don’t even kill their worst enemies in mosques, but Taliban do it in utter disregard for the sanctity of place of worship," he said. "Taliban have been targeting temples and churches which is a contravention of Islamic teachings."
KP Governor Jhagra visited victims at a hospital in Mohmand Agency on September 17, a day after the attack.
“The government wants to establish peace at all costs with the help of the local population,” he told a meeting of elders in Anbar Tehsil where the explosion had taken place. "We will not spare those responsible for creating lawlessness. The role of the local elders has been praiseworthy."
The government will employ one relative of each of the people killed in the attack to help their families, he said, pledging to provide compensation and other assistance as well.
Pakistan Army KP Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Hidayat Ur Rehman also visited Mohmand Agency September 17 and praised local residents for their courageous fight against terrorism.
"The efforts to establish peace in tribal areas have succeeded with the sacrifices of tribal population," he said. "The war against militants will be taken to logical end."
Umar Rehman, 44, a member of Anbar Peace Committee who received abdominal injuries in the attack, said he has devoted his life to fighting violence and establishing peace.
“Taliban militants are a spent force now," he told Pakistan Forward. "They cannot face security forces anymore. Some of the people who used to support them are now against them because of their wrongdoings."
"This attack has further encouraged the people, and local residents will make every effort to clear the area of troublemakers," he said.
The militants have resorted to targeting holy places and innocent people, said Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah, a security analyst and former security secretary for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
The insurgents are on the run and are incapable of targeting security forces, therefore they have diverted their attention to hit soft targets, he said, adding that security forces should enhance security of mosques, schools and other public places.
“The disappearance of militants will lead to permanent peace in the region,” he told Pakistan Forward.
How effective will the future fence along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border be in controlling the movement of militants?