On 30 January 2023, a suicide bombing took place inside a mosque in the Police Lines area of Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. The attacker entered the premises in a cop’s uniform and successfully breached security. They exploded the bomb during the midday Zuhr prayers, killing 101 people and injuring over 220 others, seven of whom are in critical condition. Omar Mukaram Khurasani, the current emir of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and a member of the Pakistani Taliban’s leadership council, claimed responsibility for the bombing.
Omar Mukaram Khurasani, the current commander of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and a member of the TTP’s leadership council, claimed his group carried out the attack to avenge the group’s previous emir, Omar Khalid Khurasani, who was killed in Afghanistan in Aug. 2022. Omar Khalid Khorasani died 7 August 2022 was a militant and one of the founding members of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
In 2014, he formed his own splinter militant group called Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) and was ousted by the Mullah Fazlullah-led Taliban. The same year, JuA swore allegiance to Islamic State (ISIS), however, a year later JuA rejoined TTP.
On 7 March 2018, Khorasani was added to the U.S. State Department’s Rewards for Justice wanted list with a bounty of up to $3 million. His name is also featured in the ‘Red Book of Most Wanted High Profile Terrorists’ published by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency. He was killed in a blast caused by a roadside mine on 7 August 2022 in Barmal District, Paktika province, Afghanistan.
In 2004, Islamist attacks intensified into a war between Islamist insurgents and the Pakistani government in northwest Pakistan. The war scaled down to a low-intensity conflict in 2017. Many insurgent attacks have been carried out in Peshawar, which is the capital of and largest city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in northwest Pakistan. These include the attacks at mosques in 2013, 2015, and 2022.
The mosque is located inside a high-security compound that includes the headquarters of the provincial police force and a counter-terrorism department. The suicide bomber passed multiple barricades manned by the local police without being detected. Between 300 and 400 police officials were present in the mosque at the time to offer their Zuhr prayers. The bomber triggered the suicide vest while standing in the first row of those praying, causing a powerful blast which collapsed the mosque’s roof. A policeman who survived the attack said that he saw “a huge burst of flames” before he was surrounded by a plume of black dust. Over 100 were killed, and twice as many were injured; 90% of the casualties were police officers.
Following the attack, Omar Mukaram Khurasani, the current emir of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and a member of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) leadership council, claimed responsibility for the bombing. He also said that the bombing was carried out to avenge the death of Omar Khalid Khorasani, who was killed in Afghanistan in August 2022. Sarbakaf Mohmand from the TTP Mohamand chapter said that the attacker’s name was Huzaifa and he was 25 years old and that they will soon release the picture of the attacker with more details. Subsequently, the group, through its spokesperson, denied its involvement.
The TTP is an umbrella organization of various Islamist armed terrorist groups operating along the Afghan–Pakistani border. Long War Journal notes that it is certainly possible that the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction of the TTP launched the suicide attack without the knowledge and approval of its parent organization but given the organization of the TTP, and the history of these two groups, it is more likely that the TTP was aware of the attack and is denying involvement regardless. Long War Journal further adds that TTP may be relying on the fact that the relationships between the TTP central leadership and its various factions are complex and often confusing. Shehbaz Sharif, the incumbent Pakistani Prime Minister, condemned the attack, stating that the attack is incompatible with Islam and that the entirety of Pakistan stands against the “menace of terrorism”.
The attack took place on Monday in Peshawar’s heavily fortified Police Lines and killed more than 100 people, all but three of them policemen. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), known as the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, saying it was part of a revenge attack for slain TTP commander Umar Khalid Khurasani who was killed in Afghanistan in August last. The police chief of the province where Peshawar is located said that authorities found bound ball bearings used in a suicide jacket from underneath the rubble yesterday.
He added that the police did not “check the attacker because they thought he was their own. The 50-year-old mosque at the Peshawar Police Lines did not have pillars … so when the bomb exploded, the walls and roof caved in. The suicide bomber who was present in the front row during the Zuhr (afternoon) prayers on Monday blew him up, causing the roof to collapse on the worshippers, said a PTI report quoting security officials.