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Pakistan: Dozens killed in blast at political rally

July 30, 2023

The bomb exploded at a political rally for the Jamiat Ulema Islam party being held in northwestern Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan.

An ambulance carries injured people after a bomb explosion in the Bajur district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan
Rescue workers said the death toll will likely climbImage: Rescue 1122 Head Quarters/AP/picture alliance

Dozens of people were killed after a bomb went off at a political rally in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday.

Pakistani officials told news agencies at least 44 people were killed in the town of Khar in Bajaur district, a former stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban.

"We fear the death toll will increase," Rescue Department spokesperson Bilal Faizi said.

Police authorities said they believe the explosion was the result of a suicide bombing.

Nearly 200 were injured, including children, with many taken to the hospital.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which is one of the worst in the country in recent years.

Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Afghan Taliban, condemned the bombing. "Such crimes cannot be justified in any way," he said. 

Images of the incident showed bodies strewn around the scene, and volunteers carrying blood-soaked victims to ambulances.

"There was all dust and smoke around and I was under the some injured people from where I hardly (could stand) up but only to see chaos and some scattered limbs," one witness told the Associated Press.

Men in orange vests
Rescue workers inspect the bombing site in Pakistan's Bajaur districtImage: Pakistan's Emergency Rescue 1122 Service/AFP

Islamist party rocked by bomb

The bomb exploded inside a packed venue where a rally was being held for the Jamiat Ulema Islam party, known for its links to hardline Islamists.  

"It is an assault on Pakistan, its democracy," party spokesperson Hafiz Hamdullah said, struggling to hold back tears at a press conference in the capital Islamabad.

He said a local leader was among the dead, while two national MPs were also wounded in the "savage" bombing. 

"A senior leader from the party was due to address the ceremony, but before his arrival a bomb explosion took place," Akhtar Hayat Gandapur, the inspector general of police for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, told the AFP news agency.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the local chapter of the  "Islamic State" militant group has recently carried out attacks against the party.

The jihadist group accuses the hardline political party of hypocrisy for being an Islamic group that has supported successive governments and the military.

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and President Arif Alvi both condemned the attack.

zc/jcg (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)