At least 19 people were killed in Peshawar, Pakistan in a gun and bomb attack on a Shi’ite mosque on Friday.
Radical Sunni Islamist groups often target mosques frequented by minority Shi’ites, whom they see as infidels.
Armed men broke into the mosque, where people were attending Friday prayers, and opened fire, after which three explosions were heard inside the building according to police.
The Pakistani Taliban, who are fighting against the state to set up a hardline Sunni theocracy, claimed responsibility saying the attack was revenge for Pakistan’s crackdown on militants following a December school massacre.
“Either Pakistan will become your graveyard, or God’s law, sharia, will be implemented,” Taliban commander Khaleefa Omar Mansoor said in a video emailed to reporters. “This is the first in a series of revenge attacks … Wait for the rest.”
The style of the mosque attack was similar to that of the school attack, when gunmen arrived in a car, set it on fire, and broke into the building using a back entrance.
Peshawar’s Hayatabad Medical Complex said at least 19 people had been killed in the latest attack.
A witness, Shahid Hussain, told Reuters the worshippers had just finished prayers when five or six men wearing military uniforms broke into the mosque and started shooting.
“We had no idea what was going on. One of the attackers then blew himself up and then there was huge smoke and dust all around,” he said.
The Pakistani government has pledged to crack down on all militant groups, and has reintroduced the death penalty, set up military courts to speed convictions and widened its offensive in northwestern areas on the Afghan border where militants find refuge.
Yet Pakistan’s religious minorities including Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus, say the government is doing little to alleviate their daily struggle against discrimination and violence.