Peshawar mosque blast: 17 suspects arrested as Pak Army chief directs generals to eliminate threat of militancy

Peshawar/Islamabad, 1 Feb: Pakistan’s security agencies arrested 17 suspects in connection with the suicide blast in a high-security zone mosque in Peshawar that killed 101 people, including 97 policemen, as Army chief Gen Asim Munir vowed zero tolerance for terror groups and directed his generals to eliminate the threat of militancy.
A Taliban suicide bomber who was present in the front row during the Zuhr (afternoon) prayers on Monday blew himself up, causing the roof to collapse on the worshippers.
Sources said that the security agencies have arrested 17 suspects involved in the devastating blast – the deadliest attack on the security personnel in decades in Pakistan.
The arrests have been made from close vicinity of the Police Lines area where the mosque is located and the suspects were shifted to interrogation cell for investigation, sources told PTI on condition of anonymity.
In a statement, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Wednesday that the entire nation and institutions are united to eliminate the menace of terrorism.
Describing police as a front line force in the fight against terrorism, the prime minister said that they will be further strengthened and equipped with modern weapons.
Speaking at a meeting of the federal cabinet in Islamabad on Wednesday, Sharif expressed serious concerns over the resurgence of terrorist elements especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, bordering Afghanistan.
The Prime Minister said that if immediate and effective steps were not taken, the despicable incidents might spread to other parts of the country.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), known as the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the Peshawar mosque 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.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s top generals have vowed that perpetrators of the Peshawar terrorist attack will be brought to exemplary justice.
General Munir, who presided over the 255th Corps Commanders’ Conference held at general headquarters in Rawalpindi on Tuesday, said that the military was determined to eliminate the threat of militancy from the country.
The army chief referred to the Peshawar mosque attack and said that “such immoral and cowardly acts cannot shake the resolve of the nation rather reinvigorate our determination to succ-eed in ongoing war against terror with zero tolerance for any terrorist entity,” according to a statement issued by the army.
General Munir, who on Monday was in Peshawar along with Prime Minister Sharif following the suicide bombing, “directed all commanders to continue focus on anti-terrorism operations in coordination with intelligence and law enforcement agencies with renewed resolve till the time we achieve sustainable peace,” the statement said.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah told parliament on Tuesday that 97 policemen were among the dead.
He said that past policies were responsible for terrorism plaguing the nation. “We created mujahideen but they have become terrorists,” he said, referring to the Afghan war against the erstwhile USSR.
The blast shocked residents in Peshawar – once known as “the city of flowers”.
The policemen took out a protest rally in Peshawar on Wednesday demanding fair and transparent investigation into the deadly bombing. The speakers of the rally demanded formation of a joint Investigation team to probe the blast.
They also demanded exemplary punishment to elements involved in the devastating bombing that killed innocent people, mostly policemen.
The rally was largely attended by people from a cross section of the society.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Tuesday urged all political forces to unite against terrorists who are targeting not a sect or particular segment of society but the entire nation.
“There is a need to create a consensus like (at the time of) the Zarb-e-Azb operation against this kind of terrorism. It is being hoped that the prime minister would take a step in this direction,” the defence minister said.
Zarb-e-Azb was launched after the Peshawar school bombing of 2014 which had killed around 150 people, mostly students. During the operation, the security forces killed and expelled militants.
Asif was asked by journalists outside the parliament building about the possibility of any fresh operation against the militants. (PTI)