Blast Kills 40, Injures 200 at Political Rally in Pakistan

Bombing occurred when senior party leader's arrival was announced
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 30, 2023 11:30 AM CDT
Bombing Kills at Least 40 at Pakistan Political Rally
People transport an injured victim upon arrival Sunday at a hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan.   (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad)

A powerful bomb ripped through a political rally by supporters of a hard-line cleric and political leader on Sunday in Pakistan's northwestern Bajur district, police and health officials said. At least 40 people were killed and nearly 200 wounded, including children, in one of the worst attacks in years. Senior police officer Nazir Khan said the workers' convention of Maulana Fazlur Rehman's Jamiat Ulema Islam party was taking place on the outskirts of Khar, the capital of Bajur district, when the explosion took place, the AP reports. Video showed wounded people being carried from the scene in the chaotic aftermath of the explosion.

Bajur used to be a haven for Islamic militants. It is the former stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, a militant group that is a close ally of the Taliban government of Afghanistan. The TTP was in recent years evicted from the area as a result of operations by the Pakistani military. In a statement sent to the AP, the TTP condemned the bombing, saying it was aimed at pitching Islamists against each other. A spokesman for the Afghan Taliban, also condemned the attack. Though a separate group, the TTP remains a close ally of the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021. The takeover emboldened the TTP. They unilaterally ended a cease-fire agreement with the Pakistani government last November and have since stepped up attacks across the country.

One of the victims, Adam Khan, 45, was hit by splinters in his leg and both hands. He said it was around 4pm when the explosion knocked him to the ground. "There was dust and smoke around and I was under some injured people from where I could hardly stand up, only to see chaos and some scattered limbs," he said. The venue was being guarded by party volunteers with batons. An announcement was being made for the arrival of Abdul Rasheed, a senior leader of the party, when the bomb exploded.

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Mohammad Wali, an attendant at the political rally, 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 to the ground," he said, per the AP. "We came to the meeting with enthusiasm but ended up at the hospital seeing crying, wounded people and sobbing relatives taking the bodies of their loved ones."

(More Pakistan stories.)

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