Mourners bury dead from massive suicide attack at political rally in Pakistan as toll reaches 54 - GulfToday

Mourners bury dead from massive suicide attack at political rally in Pakistan as toll reaches 54


Boys weep the death of their family member, a day after bomb blast in Bajaur district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, on Monday. AFP

Hundreds of mourners attended funerals in Pakistan on Monday after a suicide bombing killed at least 54 people at an election rally for a pro-Taliban cleric, carrying caskets draped in colourful cloths to burial sites in the hills.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for Sunday’s bombing in Bajaur that killed at least five children and wounded nearly 200 people.

At least 1,000 people, according to police, were crowded into a tent near a market for the rally ahead of fall elections.

"People were chanting God is Great as the leaders arrived," said Khan Mohammad, a local resident who said he was standing outside the tent, "and that was when I heard the deafening sound of the bomb.”

Bajaurblast-funeral Family members and relatives mourn as they gather around the casket of a victim who was killed in Sunday's suicide attack in Bajaur. AP

Mohammad said he heard people crying for help, and minutes later ambulances arrived and began taking the wounded away.

Police said their initial investigation suggested that Daesh group’s regional affiliate, a rival of the Taliban, could be responsible, while a Pakistan security analyst pointed to breakaway factions of the Pakistani Taliban as possible suspects.


On Monday, female relatives and children wailed and beat their chests at family homes as the dead were taken for funerals, following local customs. Hundreds of men followed the caskets to mosques and open areas for special funeral prayers and then into the hills for burial.

As condolences continued to pour in from across the country, dozens of people who had lesser injuries were discharged from hospital, while the critically wounded were taken to the provincial capital of Peshawar by army helicopters. The death toll continued to rise as some critically wounded people died in hospital, physician Gul Naseeb said.


Gul Akbar, the father of an 11-year-old boy who was wounded in the attack, told The Associated Press that his entire family was in a state of shock after hearing about the bombing on Sunday. He said he first went to the scene of the attack, and later found his son Taslim Khan being treated in a hospital in Khar.

Taboot-Bajarblast Relatives gather around casket of victims in the hospital, who were killed in Sunday's suicide attack in Bajaur. AP

"What would I have done if he had also been martyred? Five children died in this barbaric attack, and we want to know what our children did wrong,” he said.

Rehman's party is preparing to contest elections, which are expected in October or November. Abdul Rasheed, one of the party's senior leaders, said the bombing was aimed at weakening the party but that "such attacks cannot deter our resolve.”

The Pakistani military spent years fighting the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, in Bajaur before declaring the district clear of militants in 2016. But the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) party, headed by prominent cleric and politician Maulan Fazlur Rehman, has remained a potent political force.

On Monday, police recorded statements from some of the wounded at a hospital in Khar, the district's principal town.

Pakistani security analyst Mahmood Shah said some TTP members have been known to disobey their top leadership to carry out attacks, as have breakaway factions of the group.

Shah said such factions could have perpetrated the attack to cause "confusion, instability and unrest ahead of the elections.”

Rehman’s party is part of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s coalition government, which came to power in April 2022 by ousting former prime minister Imran Khan through a no-confidence vote in the legislature.

Shahbaz called Rehman to express his condolences and assure the cleric that those who orchestrated the attack would be punished. Khan condemned the bombing on Sunday, as did the US and Russian embassies in Islamabad.

The Pakistani Taliban also distanced themselves from the bombing, saying that it was intended to set Islamists against each other. Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesman for the Afghan Taliban, wrote in a tweet that "such crimes cannot be justified in any way.”

Sunday's bombing was one of the worst in northwestern Pakistan in the last decade. In 2014, 147 people, mostly schoolchildren, were killed in a Taliban attack on an army-run school in Peshawar.

In January, 74 people were killed in a bombing at a mosque in Peshawar. And in February, more than 100 people, mostly policemen, died in a bombing at a mosque inside a high-security compound housing Peshawar police headquarters.

Associated Press


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