ISLAMABAD — An explosion struck Monday inside a mosque in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, killing more than 18 people and wounding more than 70 worshippers, officials said.

At a press conference, Pakistan's interior minister said initial information suggested the explosion was caused by a suicide bomber.

The blast occurred in a crowded mosque frequented by police. Images shared on social media showed part of the outside wall of the building was blown away.

Anis Khan, the manager of the emergency unit at one of Peshawar's main hospital, known as Lady Reading, said he was counting bodies.

Peshawar is the capital of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province that borders Afghanistan. It has been the scene of frequent militant attacks.

There have been increasing attacks on soldiers and police in Pakistan since the Taliban seized power of neighboring Afghanistan more than a year ago. An offshoot of the Taliban, known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, often claims responsibility.

Also Monday, authorities announced a sudden public holiday as they prepared to host the president of the United Arab Emirates. But the Pakistani prime minister's office said that visit was called off – because of the weather. [Copyright 2023 NPR]