(Eds: Updating toll)
Peshawar, Mar 5 (PTI) Pakistan's Interior Minister on Saturday vowed to arrest the masterminds behind a deadly suicide attack claimed by the Islamic State terror group on a crowded Shia mosque during Friday prayers here that killed at least 63 people and injured nearly 200 others.
A suicide bomber, belonging to the ISIS-Khorasan, blew himself up inside a mosque in Qissa Khwani bazaar in Peshawar, capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province on Friday, in one of the deadliest attacks in the restive region, bordering Afghanistan.
The death toll on Saturday rose to 63 after five more people injured in the explosion succumbed to their wounds, a hospital official said.
"The death toll from the mosque blast has touched 63 after five more people injured in the explosion succumbed to their injuries. The numbers might go up, " Muhammad Asim, the spokesman at Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar, where the injured are being treated, said.
The Islamic State affiliate in the region known as Islamic State in Khorasan province and headquartered in Afghanistan claimed responsibility for the devastating attack on the imambargah in Koocha Risaldar, a largely Shia neighbourhood in the old city of Peshawar.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police and investigation agencies have identified all three suspects connected to the attack and have closed in on them.
In a video message shared on Twitter, Ahmed said the police and investigation agencies would reach those suspects in one or two days.
Peshawar SSP (Operations) Haroon Rasheed Khan said the explosion was a suicide blast.
There were two attackers but only one of them was a suicide bomber, he said.
An eyewitness identified a person as dressed in black as the suicide bomber, saying he entered the mosque, shot and killed the security guard first and then fired five to six bullets.
"After that, he quickly entered the [mosque's] main hall and blew himself up in front of the pulpit. Following this, there were bodies and injured people lying everywhere," the eyewitness told Geo News.
Soon after the news of the bomb blast spread, many people, including women, rushed towards the mosque to inquire about the well-being of their family members, who had gone there to offer Jumma prayer, the Dawn newspaper reported.
Every house located in the vicinity of imambargah and in the nearby streets was in mourning as the residents either lost one or two members or had members seriously injured in the bomb blast.
The last major terrorist attack was also carried out in a mosque in Dir Colony on Oct 27, 2020, killing eight students and injuring around 120 injured as a timed device went off on the premises, where a large number of seminarians were attending a class.
Friday's attack was the biggest terrorist activity in Peshawar, the report said.
President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan have strongly condemned the Peshawar blast.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan has vowed to bring the perpetrators of this heinous act to justice.
He said targeting people in a place of worship is an inhuman and cruel act and directed authorities to ensure the best medical care to the injured.
He has convened an emergency meeting at Chief Minister's House to review the overall security situation in the province, bordering Afghanistan. PTI AYZ RUP AKJ RUP