UN chief Guterres, Security Council condemn deadly attack in Pakistan

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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres (File photo)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (File photo)

United Nations: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council have condemned the suicide bombing at a mosque in Peshawar city of Pakistan, with a UN spokesperson saying countries must ensure that their territories are not used for terror activities.

Strongly condemning the suicide bombing on Monday that killed at least 90 people and injured over 100 others, Guterres said in a statement that it is particularly abhorrent that the attack occurred at a place of worship.

The outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terror group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Freedom of religion or belief, including the ability to worship in peace and security, is a universal human right,” he said.

At the daily press briefing here, spokesman for the Secretary-General, Stephane Dujarric, said, “What is clear is that every government or every authority that has control over territory has a responsibility towards the international community to make sure that their territory is not being used for terrorist activities.” He was responding to a question on the attack and promises made by the Taliban that they would not allow Afghan soil to be used for terror attacks.

The TTP, known as the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, saying it was part of a revenge attack for slain TTP commander Umar Khalid Khurasani who was killed in Afghanistan in August last year.

The 15-nation UN Security Council issued a press statement condemning in the “strongest terms” the "heinous and cowardly” suicide terrorist attack, which took place in the Police Lines area of Peshawar city, where Police Headquarters and counter-terrorism officials are based.

“The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security,” it said.

The Council underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice. They urged all States, by their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with the Government of Pakistan and all other relevant authorities.

The members of the Security Council reiterated that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever, and by whomsoever committed.

The Secretary-General reiterated the solidarity of the United Nations with the Government and people of Pakistan in their efforts to address terrorism and violent extremism.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who visited Peshawar shortly after the attack, strongly condemned the attack and took to Twitter to say, "The sheer scale of the human tragedy is unimaginable," adding that the pain of the grieving families cannot be described in words.

"My message to the perpetrators of today's despicable incident is that you can't underestimate the resolve of our people," he said.

"This is no less than an attack on Pakistan," Sharif said, adding that terrorism is the country's "foremost national security challenge".

The TTP, set up as an umbrella group of several militant outfits in 2007, called off a ceasefire with the Pakistani government and ordered its militants to stage terrorist attacks across the country.

The group, which is believed to be close to al-Qaeda, has been blamed for several deadly attacks across Pakistan, including an attack on army headquarters in 2009, assaults on military bases, and the 2008 bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.

In 2014, the Pakistani Taliban stormed the Army Public School (APS) in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing at least 150 people, including 131 students. The attack sent shockwaves across the world and was widely condemned.