KHAR: Pakistan police on Monday (Jul 31) combed through the bloody wreckage of a suicide blast that killed at least 44 people at an Islamist party’s political gathering ahead of elections due later this year.
Around 400 members of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F (JUI-F) party – a key government coalition partner led by a firebrand cleric – were waiting for speeches to begin when the attacker detonated his vest near the front stage.
“I was confronted with a devastating sight – lifeless bodies scattered on the ground while people cried out for help,” Fazal Aman, who was near the tent when the bomb went off, told AFP.
The attack occurred in the town of Khar in the northwestern Bajaur district, just 45km from the Afghan border, in an area where militancy has been rising since the Taliban took control of Kabul in 2021.
Pakistan’s parliament is likely to be dissolved after it completes its term in the next two weeks, with national elections to be held by mid-November or earlier.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Pakistani Taliban – who operate in the area – have denied being behind it.
The local chapter of the Islamic State group, who have not yet commented on the attack, have in the past targeted JUI-F rallies and leaders.
ELECTION VIOLENCE FEARS
On Monday, blood-stained shoes and prayer caps littered the site, along with ball bearings and steel bolts from the suicide vest.
Pieces of human flesh could still be seen, blasted 30m from the stage where the bomber detonated his device.
Thousands of mourners attended the first funeral ceremonies, including for two young cousins aged 16 and 17.
“It was not easy for us to lift two coffins. This tragedy has shattered our family,” said Najib Ullah, the brother of one of the boys.
“Our women are profoundly shocked and devastated. When I see the mothers of the victims, I find myself losing my own courage.”