Death toll in Pakistan Shiite mosque attack rises to 21

Death toll in Pakistan Shiite mosque attack rises to 21
A photograph released by Pakistani Taliban shows who they said are suicide bombers, Siddique, Aftab and Shahid, as they sit with their central commander Khaleefa Omar Mansoor

PESHAWAR, Pakistan - The death toll in a militant attack on a Shiite mosque in northwest Pakistan rose to 21 after an injured person died of his wounds, officials said on Saturday.

Three heavily armed Taliban militants stormed the Imamia mosque with grenades, Kalashnikovs and explosive suicide vests in Peshawar, the main city in Pakistan's restive northwest, around the time of the main Friday prayers.

"The death toll has now risen to 21," a senior local police official, Mian Saeed told AFP.

An official at Hayatabad Medical Complex, Tauheed Zulfiqar also confirmed the new toll and said the injured person, who was in the intensive care unit, had died of his wounds early Saturday morning.

"Around 40 injured people are still under treatment in different hospitals," Zulfiqar added.

The attack came two weeks after a suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque in southern Pakistan killed 61 people, the deadliest sectarian incident to hit the country in nearly two years.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for Friday's attack in an email statement, saying it was revenge for a militant known as Doctor Usman, who was hanged in December.

Since June last year the army has been waging a major campaign against strongholds of TTP and other militants in the North Waziristan tribal area, which lies close to Peshawar.

The military has heralded the success of the operation, which it says has killed more than 2,000 militants, though the precise number and identity of those killed cannot be verified independently.

The country has stepped up its fight against militants since Taliban gunmen massacred more than 150 people, most of them children, at a school in Peshawar in December.

Following the massacre, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ended a six-year moratorium on the death penalty and Doctor Usman, also known as Aqil, was one of the first to go to the gallows.

He was convicted for an attack on the army headquarters in Rawalpindi in 2009 and was arrested after being injured.

Anti-Shiite attacks have been increasing in recent years in Karachi, Quetta, the northwestern area of Parachinar and the far-northeastern town of Gilgit.

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