44 killed in suicide blast at political party meet in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
The explosion took place at the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) workers' convention in Bajaur’s Khar.
At least 44 people were killed and more than 150 were injured in a suicide blast at a political party's meeting in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Sunday, news agency Reuters reported citing local broadcaster Geo News.
Visuals showed wounded people being rescued and carried to an ambulance from the scene in the chaotic aftermath of the explosion, which occurred when a suicide bomber sneaked into the venue.
Who is behind the attack?
While no group claimed the responsibility for the fatal attack, doubts hovered over the local chapter of the Islamic State (IS) group, which has recently carried out attacks against JUI-F.
The jihadist group accuses JUI-F of hypocrisy for being an Islamic group while supporting hostile governments and the military.
Victims airlifted to Peshawar
As per reports, the explosion took place around 4pm at the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) workers' convention in Bajaur’s Khar where more than 400 party members were present. According to the police, the injured have been shifted to a nearby hospital. Serious wounded people were being airlifted to the provincial capital, Peshawar, for better medical care, said a government administrator.
Law enforcement agencies cordoned off the area. A rescue person told earlier that five ambulances had reached the site.
Who is Maulana Fazlur Rehman?
Maulana Ziaullah, the local chief of Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s party, has been killed in the blast. Other leaders like Abdur Rasheed and former lawmaker Maulana Jamaluddin was also on the stage but escaped unhurt. Party officials claimed that party supremo Rehman was not present in the rally.
70-year-old Rehman is considered to be a pro-Taliban cleric and his political party is part of the ruling coalition government. Keeping in mind the next general elections in Pakistan scheduled in the coming days, political rallies are being organised to mobilise supporters.
Survivors recall tragedy
45-year-old Adam Khan was hit by splinters in his leg and both hands. He told news agency AP that the explosion knocked him to the ground.
“There was all dust and smoke around and I was under some injured people from where I hardly (could stand) up but only to see chaos and some scattered limbs,” he said.
Mohammad Wali said he was listening to a speaker address the crowd when the huge explosion temporarily deafened him.
“I was near the water dispenser to fetch a glass of water when the bomb exploded throwing me away to the ground," he said. "We came to the meeting with enthusiasm but ended up at the hospital seeing crying wounded people and sobbing relatives taking bodies of their loved ones.”
(With agency inputs)