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Pakistani Militants Target Shi'ite Mosque In Deadly Attack

  • RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal

Militants have attacked a Shi'ite mosque in northwest Pakistan, killing at least 19 people and wounding dozens of others.

Worshippers had gathered for Friday Prayers in the Imamia Mosque in the city of Peshawar on February 13 when the militants threw hand grenades inside the mosque and opened fire.

The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The head of the provincial police, Nasir Durrani, was quoted by the AP as saying four or five attackers entered the mosque from a building next door that was under construction, then jumped over an outer wall into the mosque courtyard.

Durrani said one person blew himself up, creating a diversion so the other attackers could enter the mosque.

The police chief said at least three attackers died in the violence -- two by blowing themselves up and one who was killed by worshippers at the mosque.

Durrani praised the worshippers' "great courage," saying they grabbed one of the attackers by his neck, preventing him from detonating his explosives.

Some eyewitnesses said at least some of the attackers were wearing police uniforms.

Television footage showed people running from the area as thick smoke billowed and ambulances took away the wounded.

It was not known how many worshippers were present inside the mosque.

Police said authorities are examining the scene.

The attack in Peshawar comes two weeks after a suicide attack on a Shi'ite mosque in southern Pakistan killed 61 people, the deadliest sectarian incident to hit the country in nearly two years.

Pakistan has suffered rising sectarian violence in recent years, most of it by hard-line Sunni Muslim groups against minority Shi'a.

Shi'a make up about 20 percent of Pakistan's more than 180 million, majority-Sunni population.

With reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, and Reuters
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