At least 40 people were killed and hundreds more injured in a suspected suicide bomb attack ahead of an outdoor gathering in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday, police reported.
The explosion occurred at around 1700 local time (1200GMT), an hour before the event started in Bajaur district, which is near the border with Afghanistan, police said.
The meeting was organized by Jamiat Ulama Islam (JUI), a coalition partner under the federal government.
Regional Police Chief Nasir Satti told reporters that the fourth blast in less than three weeks in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkwa appeared to be a suicide bomb attack.
District health officer Dr. Faisal Kamal told reporters that more than 40 bodies had been transported to local government hospitals.
Earlier, provincial Information Minister Feroz Jamal told reporters that more than 200 people were injured.
Health officials fear the death toll could rise, as some of the injured are in critical condition.
Among the dead was local JUI chairman Maulana Ziaullah. A cameraman from local broadcaster Geo News was also seriously injured.
Helicopters have been sent to evacuate critically injured victims to the provincial capital Peshawar and other hospitals.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the incident, and directed security forces to bring the terrorists involved in the blast to justice.
Footage shown on local broadcaster Samaa News showed JUI members and rescue workers carrying bodies and injured victims to ambulances as plumes of smoke billowed into the air.
Another video showed honking ambulances carrying bodies and injured victims to hospitals, while several injured victims were taken by JUI officers to health facilities.
The rising tide of attacks
Hafiz Hamdullah, a senator from JUI, said party members were holding an open parade when the explosion occurred.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, one of the deadliest in recent years.
JUI has long been targeted by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for opposing suicide attacks and terrorist attacks on Pakistani security forces.
JUI chief and former opposition leader Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman survived two alleged suicide attacks in 2011 and 2014.
Pakistan has seen an increase in terrorist attacks since the Taliban returned to power in neighboring Afghanistan in August 2021.
Islamabad accused “Afghanistan-based” TTP militants of being behind the attack, a charge denied by the interim Taliban government, which condemned Sunday’s attack.
Taliban in Afghanistan condemn attack
The Afghan Taliban condemned the terrorist attack, calling it a “criminal” act.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s interim government, said, “This kind of criminal action can never be justified.”
Mujahid expressed sadness over the loss of life in the attack and expressed his condolences to the bereaved families and one of the JUI administrators.
He also prayed for a speedy recovery for those injured.
‘Turkey will continue to support Pakistan’
Turkiye’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday expressed deep concern over the deadly attack, and strongly condemned the terror attack.
“Turkiye will continue to support friendly Pakistan in the fight against terrorism,” Ankara said in a statement.The Turkiye Foreign Ministry also expressed condolences to the families as well as the people and government of Pakistan who have been considered brothers of the Turkiye people.
Source : aa