More than 40 people have been killed and about 150 wounded in a bomb attack targeting police at a mosque in Peshawar, Pakistan.
Sarbakaf Mohmand, a commander for the Pakistani Taliban (a completely separate group from the Afghan Taliban), claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack.
A police official said the attacker blew himself up while among the worshippers.
The mosque is inside a fortified compound that includes the headquarters of the provincial police force and a counterterrorism department.
Authorities said part of the building collapsed and that many people were feared to be trapped under the rubble.
Shahid Ali, a policeman who survived the attack, said the explosion took place seconds after the prayers started.
“I saw black smoke rising to the sky. I ran out to save my life,” the 47-year-old told the AFP news agency.
“The screams of the people are still echoing in my mind,” he added. “People were screaming for help.”
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the bombing and ordered authorities to ensure the best possible medical treatment for the victims. He promised “stern action” against those behind the attack.
Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter to condemn the attack.
“Strongly condemn the terrorist suicide attack in police lines mosque Peshawar during prayers,” he tweeted.
“It is imperative we improve our intelligence gathering and properly equip our police forces to combat the growing threat of terrorism.”
Pakistan has seen increasing violence during the last year, with numerous attacks on law enforcement officials, particularly in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province as well as the southern province of Balochistan.
In November last year, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has been waging a rebellion against the state of Pakistan for more than a decade, ended a ceasefire with the Pakistani state.
The group demands the imposition of Islamic law, the release of its members arrested by the government, and a reversal of the merger of Pakistan’s tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.