Suicide attackers hit mosque near army headquarters in Pakistan, killing 36

Militants stormed a mosque near Pakistan’s army headquarters, killing at least 36 worshippers, including six military officers, during Friday prayers as they sprayed gunfire and threw grenades before blowing themselves up, officials said.

Women look at dead bodies of suicide attack victims in a hospital compound in  Rawalpindi

Women look at dead bodies of suicide attack victims in a hospital compound in Rawalpindi

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan — Militants stormed a mosque near Pakistan’s army headquarters, killing at least 36 worshippers, including six military officers, during Friday prayers as they sprayed gunfire and threw grenades before blowing themselves up, officials said.

It was the latest in a wave of strikes by suspected Islamist insurgents that has killed more than 400 people in Pakistan since October.

The rampage in a heavily fortified area in the garrison city of Rawalpindi also brought the war home to the military brass as insurgents persist with brazen attacks despite several army offensives against them in northwestern regions bordering Afghanistan.

A military statement said four attackers hurled grenades, then opened fire as they rushed toward the mosque, which was located on Parade Lane in a military residential colony, just a few miles from the capital. Two suicide bombers then blew themselves up inside, while the other two militants were killed in an exchange of gunfire, it said.

The dead included a major general, a brigadier, two lieutenant colonels, one major and a retired major as well as three regular soldiers, military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said. Seventeen children and 10 civilians also were killed.

Local station Geo TV reported that the Pakistani Taliban had claimed responsibility.

City residents said access to the mosque was mostly restricted to soldiers and their families.

Witnesses said two of the militants entered the mosque, which had up to 200 worshippers inside, while others ran into buildings nearby. The army prevented reporters from the scene, where security forces exchanged fire with the assailants for an hour before the militants blew themselves up or were killed.

Nasir Ali Sheikh saw the attackers at the mosque as he walked there to pray. He said they were dressed in traditional Pakistani clothing of loose pants and a long tunic and carried hand grenades, automatic weapons and ammunition belts slung around their shoulders.

“They were killing people like animals,” he said. “I couldn’t understand what was happening.”

The mosque’s walls and prayer mats were covered in blood and shattered glass lined the floor, TV footage showed.

The attack was the third in Rawalpindi in the last two months. In the most high-profile incident, a team of militants attacked the army headquarters on Oct. 10 and held dozens hostage in a 22-hour standoff that left nine militants and 14 other people dead.

Three helicopters hovered overhead Friday while trucks carrying commando teams and ambulances raced through the cordoned-off area as soldiers with rifles ready kept onlookers and traffic away.

The attack began when several gunmen staged an explosion to break through a checkpoint close to the mosque, said Yasir Nawaz, a police official at the scene.

He said the installation included an army parade ground as well as the mosque, which was often used by military officers.

Abbas said authorities were investigating how the attackers penetrated the stringent security ring surrounding the area.

It was the second attack against a military installation this week. A suicide bomber also struck the entrance of the navy headquarters in Islamabad, killing two security guards on Wednesday.

Violence in nuclear-armed Pakistan has escalated since the army launched an offensive in mid-October against Taliban militants in the northwestern tribal area of South Waziristan near the Afghan border. Soldiers have pushed deep into what was a militant stronghold, but many insurgents appear to have fled.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Advocate file photo).
Red Deer’s downtown restaurants can apply for patio licences

It will allow for expanded seating capacity

Some workers at Sobeys in Rocky Mountain House have recently tested positive for COVID-19. (File photo)
Sobeys in Rocky Mountain House reports COVID-19 workers

10 positive tests since last Thursday

A woman walks through Toronto’s financial district on Monday, July 30, 2018. A new poll suggests most Canadians believe there’s still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in this country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Canadians, especially women, say gender equality not achieved in Canada: Poll

63 per cent said equality between men and women has not been achieved

FILE - In this March 3, 2021, file photo, anti-coup protesters run as one of them discharges a fire extinguisher to counter the impact of tear gas fired by riot policemen in Yangon, Myanmar. The escalation of violence in Myanmar as authorities crack down on protests against the Feb. 1 coup is adding to pressure for more sanctions against the junta, as countries struggle over how to best confront military leaders inured to global condemnation. (AP Photo/File)
Escalating violence raises pressure for Myanmar sanctions

More shootings were reported over the weekend

A moth-killing drone hovers over crops in a green house in Monster, Netherlands, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. A Dutch startup is using drones to kill moths in midair as a way of protecting valuable crops in greenhouses that are damaged by caterpillars. PATS Indoor Drone Solutions emerged from the work of a group of students looking for ways to kill mosquitos in their dorm rooms. The drones themselves are very basic, but they are steered by smart technology and special cameras that scan the airspace in greenhouses. When the cameras detect a moth, a drone is set on a collision course with the bug, destroying the bug with its rotors. (AP Photo/Mike Corder)
Drones vs hungry moths: Dutch use hi-tech to protect crops

Drones instantly kill the moths by flying into them

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

Treena Mielke
Seasons changing: Hope around the corner with vaccines

The month of March is leaving its muddy footprint on the land… Continue reading

Hamilton Forge FC’s Giuliano Frano (8) heads the ball against CD Olimpia’s Jorge Benguche (9) during Scotiabank CONCACAF League 2019 second half soccer action in Hamilton, Ont., Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. Forge FC owner Bob Young says the Canadian Premier League champions will be playing the Canadian Championship final against Toronto FC at a disadvantage. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power
Forge FC owner upset at Canada Soccer’s timing of Canadian Championship final

Winner of Canadian Championship final earns a berth in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League

Team Wild Card Two skip Kevin Koe reacts to his shot as he plays Team Newfoundland and Labrador at the Brier in Calgary, Alta., on March 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Wild Card Two’s Koe beats Gushue 9-7 to hand defending champs first loss at the Brier

Gushue was a tad heavy with his final draw and Koe picked it out for the victory

(Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No regrets: Grammy-nominated DJ Jayda G on choosing beats over sciences career

TORONTO — House music producer Jayda G knows a thing or two… Continue reading

This image provided by Harpo Productions shows Prince Harry, left, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, speaking about expecting their second child during an interview with Oprah Winfrey. “Oprah with Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special” airs March 7 as a two-hour exclusive primetime special on the CBS Television Network. (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via AP)
UK royals absorb shock of revealing Harry, Meghan interview

Anti-monarchy group Republic said the interview gave a clearer picture of what the royal family is like

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan takes part in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa on December 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservatives to call top Sajjan, Trudeau aides to testify on Vance allegations

OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives plan to summon two senior Liberal aides… Continue reading

Elvira D'Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Several provinces were preparing to loosen COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday, as Canada’s… Continue reading

Mount Pearl Senior High in Mount Pearl, N.L., remains closed on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The provincial health authority says there were 185 cases at 22 schools, including 145 infections among staff and students of one high school in Mount Pearl that was an early epicentre of the outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
In Newfoundland and Labrador, three ingredients made for explosive COVID-19 outbreak

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — With her classes, three part-time jobs and a… Continue reading

Most Read