Pak Cops After Mosque Blast
Pakistani police officers say they have been “thrown into the hands of the beasts” in their battle against the rising militancy after an explosion at a city headquarters killed dozens of their colleagues.
A suicide bomber dressed in police uniform broke into a heavily guarded compound in Peshawar on Monday and blew himself up during afternoon prayers at a mosque, in the deadliest attack Pakistan has seen in years.
“We are in a state of shock, every second day our colleagues are dying, how much will we have to suffer? a police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity. “If the defenders are not safe, then who is safe in this country?”
Authorities say the blast, which also killed a civilian, was carried out in retaliation for police operations against relentless attacks by Islamist groups in the region, which borders Afghanistan.
“We are on the front line of this war, we are protecting schools, offices and public places, but today we feel abandoned,” said a junior officer.
“The state has tied our hands and thrown us to the beasts.”
The feuding politicians, who are months away from contesting general elections, have traded blame for the worsening security situation, with the country also weighed down by a severe economic crisis.
The lack of leadership has given terrorists room to regroup and target the state, analysts say.
‘Tomorrow it could be me’
Several dozen police officers protested in Peshawar on Wednesday, frustrated by the deepening dangers they are facing.
The anger is even greater as the bombed compound, which also houses intelligence and counter-terrorism offices, was one of the most heavily monitored areas of the city.
“It’s incomprehensible to me,” said Inayat Ullah, a 42-year-old policeman who spent several hours under the rubble of a collapsed wall before being rescued, losing his thumb.
“When we leave the house, we never know where we might be targeted. Today it’s him, tomorrow it could be me,” he said, speaking of a close friend who was killed on Monday.
The biggest threat comes from the Pakistani Taliban, separate from the Afghan Taliban, but with a similar ideology.
The group emerged in 2007, in alliance with al-Qaeda, killing tens of thousands of Pakistani civilians and members of the security forces in less than a decade, with Peshawar at the center of daily attacks.
Largely crushed in a major military crackdown launched in 2014, they have been resurgent since the Taliban came to power across the border in August 2021 following the withdrawal of US and NATO troops.
Known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), they have tried to rebrand themselves as a less brutal outfit, shunning civilians in favor of targeting security personnel and police in attacks with few casualties.
Police attributed Monday’s attack to Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a more radical group occasionally linked to the TTP, which has denied any involvement.
“Every time we leave our homes, we hug our loved ones and they hug us. We don’t know if we will come back alive or not,” said another policeman, who lost six friends in the blast.
‘Void can never be filled’
Father-of-two Atif Mujeed, 36, was the backbone of his family — a police officer who had already survived an IED blast that killed seven of his colleagues in 2013.
But on Monday there was no escape from the blast that ripped through the ranks of worshipers and caused a wall to collapse and the officers to be buried.
“This incident shocked us. The void he leaves can never be filled,” his brother-in-law, Rizwan Ahmed, told AFP. “His death broke the backbone of this family.”
The TTP continues to use its old methods: targeted assassinations, bombings, kidnappings and extortion as it regroups along the border.
Pakistan blames Afghanistan for allowing militants to use Afghan soil to plan attacks, which Kabul denies.
Peace negotiations between the TTP and Pakistan, brokered by the Afghan Taliban, broke down in November, shattering a shaky ceasefire.
During the talks, the number of militants increased with the release of around 100 low-level fighters from Pakistani prisons.
This has only added to the confusion in the ranks of the police.
“One day they tell us there is a ceasefire and peace talks, the next day they tell us the ceasefire is not being implemented and we have to be ready to fight… It’s worrying,” said one of the police officers who searched. anonymity.
Pakistan’s Federal Cabinet announced on Wednesday that the police and counter-terrorism section in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, whose capital is Peshawar, will be reorganized, better trained and better equipped.
A new military operation against Islamist armed groups, which are highly factional, is also being discussed.
But in Peshawar, some have succumbed to a cycle of violence that is here to stay.
“I have already spent half my life witnessing a bloodbath,” said late brother-in-law Ahmed.
“But I still have not the least hope of ever seeing peace in this city.”
(Other than the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published by a shared source.)
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