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Pakistanis pledge to find organizers of mosque attack

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PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Officials vowed on Saturday to hunt down and arrest the organizers of the deadly attack on a mosque in Pakistan the day before that killed 63 people and injured nearly 200.

The Islamic State militant group said the lone suicide bomber was from neighboring Afghanistan. He shot two police officers guarding the Shia Muslim mosque in northwest Peshawar before entering the building and detonating his device, the group said. The attack took place as worshipers knelt for Friday prayers.

Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, who fight the Islamic State, condemned the attack.

“We condemn the bombing of a mosque in Peshawar, Pakistan. There is no justification for attacking civilians and worshippers,” Taliban Deputy Culture and Information Minister Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted. He declined to comment on the Islamic State‘s claim that the suicide bomber was Afghan.

The death toll is expected to continue to rise, said Asim Khan, spokesman for Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar. At least four of the 38 patients still hospitalized were in critical condition, he said.

Hundreds of mourners attended funeral prayers for 13 victims on Friday night and another 11 on Saturday at Kohati Gate in Peshawar.

“These were human beings and worshipers inside the mosque, and they were brutally killed at a time when they were busy praying to God,” Hayat Khan told reporters late Friday night as he was burying a relative.

One of the officers who was shot outside the Kucha Risaldar Mosque died instantly, and the second later died from his injuries, police officials said.

Pakistani Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said three investigation teams had been set up to study forensic evidence and CCTV footage to track down the organizers of the attack.

An investigator involved in the case told reporters that footage showed the attacker arrived at the site in a motorized rickshaw with two other people, who are wanted. Sketches were made of the individuals, he said, asking to remain anonymous.

A provincial government spokesman, Mohammad Ali Saif, told reporters that the rickshaw driver had been apprehended and the search for accomplices was ongoing.

In CCTV footage seen by reporters, the lone assailant is shown hiding his bombshell under a large black shawl. Footage shows the suicide bomber moving quickly down a narrow street toward the entrance to the mosque. He shoots at the policemen protecting the mosque before entering the building.

Within seconds there is a powerful explosion and the camera lens is obscured by dust and debris. The device was filled with ball bearings, a deadly method of constructing a bomb to inflict maximum carnage as it sprays projectiles over a large area. The ball bearings caused the high death toll, said Moazzam Jah Ansari, the top police official in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province, of which Peshawar is the capital.

Information for this article was provided by Tameem Akhgar and Maamoun Youssef of The Associated Press.

Gallery: Mourning the victims of the bombing of a mosque in Pakistan