Peshawar Mosque Attack: “Snake Bites its Snake Charmer”
Anurag Sharma, Senior Research Associate, VIF

कर्म प्रधान विश्व रचि राखा। जो जस करहि सो तस फल चाखा।।

(translation: Deeds are of supreme importance in this universe. Whatever a person does, he is punished or rewarded accordingly)

- A verse from “Ram Charit Manas”, work by Goswami Tulsidas Ji

On the afternoon of 30 January 2023, Peshawar was shocked by a suicide bombing inside a mosque in the Malik Saad Police Lines area of Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. The attack occurred during the Zuhr (noon) Prayers of the noon. As of 01 February 2023, over 100 people, including most police personnel, were killed and over 200 injured.[1] The attack has emerged as one of the deadliest attacks on Pakistan's security forces. Earlier, there was confusion regarding the perpetrator group which carried out the attack. In one account, Jamaat ul-Ahrar (JuA), also known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Mohmand faction, claimed responsibility for the attack as revenge for the killing of Omar Khalid Khorasani.[2] On another account, countering the claims of responsibility for the attack, the TTP spokesperson Mohammad Khurasani stated that “it is necessary to clarify that Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan has nothing to do with this incident [Peshawar mosque attack]. As per our laws and general constitution, any action in mosques, madrasas, funerals grounds and other sacred places is an offence.”[3] This write-up briefly discusses the incident, the perpetrator, and possibilities where Pakistan may deal with the Islamic terror— the snake that Pakistan fostered in its backyard.

The Incident

During the Zuhr prayers in the afternoon of 30 January, around 300-400 police personnel were inside the mosque, which is located inside a high-security compound, including a provincial police headquarters and a counter-terrorism (CT) department in the police line area of Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The suicide bomber managed to cross multiple security barricades installed by local police without being detected or any suspicions. Preliminary investigation revealed that the perpetrator was wearing a police uniform and had arrived on a motorcycle.[4] Inside the prayer hall, allegedly, the suicide bomber stood in the first row and triggered the vest, which caused a powerful explosion leading to the collapse of a mosque’s roof. As a witness and a survivor of the incident, Nasarullah Khan— a police official, recalled that there was a massive burst of flames before a plume of black dust. Khan’s foot broke in the blast; however, he survived the rubble of collapsed ceiling and wall for three hours.[5]

Soon after the attack, Jamaat ul-Ahrar (JuA) a TTP faction, claimed responsibility; however, TTP’s spokesperson officially denied the group's involvement in this attack. At least 101 people were killed, including police officers, and over 220 were injured in this attack. According to Moazzam Jah Ansari, the Head of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province Police, the suicide bomber entered the mosque with at least 12 kilograms of explosives.[6] The attack also raises concerns about the security breach in one of Peshawar’s most secure areas, which houses intelligence and counter-terrorism offices and the regional secretariat.

The Peshawar mosque attack was the group’s fourth terror attack, following three suicide bombings that were carried out in Quetta and Islamabad in November and December 2022, respectively, and in the Jamrud neighbourhood of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa last month. The attack not only brought back memories of significant terror attacks on mosques in 2013 (Shi’ite mosque in Gulshan colony), 2015 (Imamia mosque), and 2022 (Qissa Khwani Bazaar), but it also caused concern and chaos among citizens amid gigantic economic and political crises, especially with general elections scheduled for October of this year.

Claims and Deniability of the Attack

Following the attack, Omar Mukaram Khurasani— Emir of Jamaat ul-Ahrar and member of TTP Central Shura, claimed the attack as an avenge of the killing of his predecessor— Omar Khalid Khurasani.[7] In August 2022, Omar Khalid Khurasani was killed in a US drone strike in the Paktia Province of Afghanistan. The group’s shadow governor of Zhob province in Baluchistan— Sarbakaf Mohmand, provided the details of the attack, including the identification of the suicide bomber as Huzaifa (25 years old), through its media platform.

Jamaat ul-Ahrar (JuA) was added to the list of “entities and individuals subject to the assets freeze, travel ban, and arms embargo” by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)’s 1267 Committee, also known as ISIL (Da'esh) and al-Qa'ida Sanction Committee, on July 6, 2017.[8] Also, the group is enlisted in the Sanctions List of the United States Department of Treasury.[9] Jamaat-ul-Ahrar was formed after splitting from TTP in August 2014 and gained prominence within three months of its formation by claiming a suicide attack near the Bharat-Pakistan International Border (IB) at Wagah. On 02 November 2014, the JuA’s suicide bomber exploded outside a restaurant in a parking area near Pakistan’s paramilitary personnel’s checkpoint at the Wagah border. At least 60 people were killed, and over 100 were injured. The attack was avenging Pakistan’s military operation— Zarb-i-Azb and Waziristan operation.[10]

Earlier, in September 2014, JuA had announced that the group would have no connection or links with the TTP after the latter’s Emir Mullah Fazlullah expelled Mohmand Agency chief Umar Khalid Khorasani from TTP, accusing him of conspiring against the former Emir of Emirates of Afghanistan— Mullah Mohammad Omar.[11] A key commander and spokesman for the JuA— Mukarram Khan, left the group in 2017 to form Hizbul Ahrar in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. JuA claimed in a video statement that Khan had disagreements with the Emir over attacks on minority Christians and civilians, kidnapping for ransom, and other terrorist activities that he considers un-Islamic in nature.[12]

On deniability, it is quite possible that JuA executed the Peshawar mosque attack without approval from its parent organisation— TTP. However, given the history of the relationship and JuA’s Emir Omar Mukaram Khurasani being a key member of TTP’s Central Council, it is highly likely that the TTP's central leadership was aware of the attack.

What Lies Ahead for Pakistan?

According to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)’s official ‘review of activities in 2022’ shared via its media agency, the group carried out at least 367 terror attacks against Pakistan’s security forces— including police, counter-terrorism, and secret service personnel, excluding the months of ceasefire agreement from May to August. In late 2022, the group intensified its terror attacks against Pakistan security forces, with 39 incidents in September, 43 in October, 59 in November, and 69 in December. In 367 terror attacks, the total casualties were counted to 1,015, including injured. Out of 367 incidents, 348 terror attacks were carried out in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with a majority of 73 terror attacks in North Waziristan and 18 in Peshawar.

Reacting to the attack, Pakistan’s Prime Minister— Shehbaz Sharif, strongly condemned the bombing, saying that the “act is incompatible with Islam and entire Pakistan is standing against the evil of terrorism.” PM Sharif also mentioned that “terrorists want to create a fearful atmosphere by targeting those who perform the duty of defending Pakistan (referring to security personnel)”.[13] Along with strong condemnation from other countries, Bharat condemned the terror attack and extended its deep condolences to the victims’ families.[14]

Taliban-led Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) condemned the Peshawar terror attack and stated that “such actions are a contradiction to teachings of the holy religion of Islam…”[15] However, Other jihadi Organisations in the region see the Taliban’s condemnation of the terror attack as a political move aimed at improving diplomatic and political relations with Pakistan, and the TTP supporters characterised the Taliban’s statements as hypocritical. As an assumption, the attack’s deniability may also show that the TTP is under pressure from the Taliban ruling in Afghanistan.

From 2014 to 2017, Pakistan conducted an offensive military operation known as "Operation Zarb-e-Azb" against several terrorist organisations in North Waziristan, including the TTP, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), and al-Qa'ida. The operation was intended to be offensive against all foreign and domestic terrorists hiding in North Waziristan.[16] Later, Zarb-e-Azb claimed to improve the security situation, and terrorist attacks dropped significantly compared to the period before 2014.

With the resurgence of terror attacks, Pakistan may opt for another serious military offensive operation against TTP/JuA and their hideouts in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area. Given the economic crisis in Pakistan, the possibility of such an army operation is unlikely until funded and joined by the United States or International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s vital bailout loan to prevent the country from going a defaulter. Can we anticipate Pakistan to carry out ‘Zarb-e-Azb 2.0’ against terror groups after the IMF loan is approved?

Endnotes :

[1]Goldbaum, Christina, Salman Masood and Zia ur-Rehman. “terrorism has returned: Pakistan grapples with attack that left 101 dead”, The New York Times, 31 January 2023, accessed on 01 February 2023, available from:
[2] “TTP’s claims Peshawar Mosque attack. A look into Pakistani Taliban’s profile”, Hindustan Times, 31 January 2023, accessed on 01 February 2023, available from:
[3]Saifi, Sophia. “Pakistan mosque attack kills more than 60 people”, CNN, 30 January 2023, accessed on 01 February 2023, available from:; Saifi, Sophia, Saleem Mehsud and Hira Humayun. “Pakistan mosque attack kills more than 60 people”, Kake, 30 January 2023, accessed on 01 February 2023, available from:; CNN. “death toll from blast in Pakistan mosque rises to at least 100 as country faces ‘national security crisis’”, News Boston, 31 January 2023, accessed on 01 February 2023, available from:
[4] “Closing in on terror network: Peshawar Mosque bomber was in police uniform, says KP’s IG”, DAWN, 02 February 2023, accessed on 02 February 2023, available from:
[5]Saifi, Sophia, Rhea Mogul and Saleem Mehsud. “death toll from blast in Pakistan mosque rises to at least 100 as country faces ‘national security crisis’”, CNN, 31 January 2023, accessed on 02 February 2023, available from:
[6] “Peshawar mosque blast that killed 100 was ‘targeted revenge attack’: Pakistan police”, The New Indian Express, 31 January 2023, accessed on 03 January 2023, available from:
[8]“Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA)”, United Nations Security Council, 06 July 2017, accessed on 03 February 2023, available from:
[9] “Jamaat-ul-Ahrar”, Office of Foreign Assets Control-The Department of Treasury, accessed on 03 February 2023, available from:
[10]Farooq, Umar, Wasim Riaz and Zahir Shah Sherazi. “TTP splinter groups claim Wagah attack; 60 dead”, DAWN, 02 November 2014, accessed on 02 February 2023, available from:
[11]Sherazi, Zahir Shah. “TTP chief Mullah Fazlullah ousts commander Umar Khorasani”, DAWN, 07 September 2014, accessed on 04 January 2023, available from:
[12]Associated Press. “Pakistani Taliban splinter group splits further over tactics”, Fox News, 12 November 2017, accessed on 04 February 2023, available from:
[13]Davies, Carrie, Laura Gozzi and Malu Cursino. “Pakistan mosque blast: Police targeted in suicide attack that kills 59”, BBC, 01 February 2023, accessed on 05 February 2023, available from:
[14]Arindam Bagchi (@MEAIndia). Tweet. 31 January 2023, 03:08 PM. Accessed on 05 February 2023, available from:
[15]Ministry of Foreign Affairs-Afghanistan (@MoFA_Afg). Tweet. 30 January 2023, 09:26 PM. Accessed on 05 February 2023, available from:
[16] “Air raids flatten 5 militant hideouts”, The Express Tribune, 14 July 2014, accessed on 05 February 2023, available from:

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

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Very well analysed and explained the consequences of attack and future modus operandi of Pakistan on case of such attacks by terrorists organisation in Afghanistan Pakistan Border.


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