KHAR, Pakistan — A powerful bomb ripped through a rally by supporters of a hard-line cleric and political leader in the country’s northwestern Bajur district that borders Afghanistan on Sunday, police and health officials said. At least 35 people were killed and more than 100 wounded.
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.
Initially police said 10 people were killed but later more bodies were moved to a hospital bringing the death toll to 35. He said some of the wounded were taken to the city’s main hospital in critical condition and the death toll could increase.
Azam Khan, head of the emergency room at Khar’s main hospital, said 35 bodies were brought to the hospital and some were taken back by relatives while the number of wounded was now more than 100 as those who earlier went to near small clinics for medical aid consequently brought to the main government hospital.
Government administrator Mohibullah Khan Yousufzai also said death toll rose to 35 and the number of wounded was well over 100. He said the serious wounded people were being airlifted to provincial capital, Peshawar, for better medical care.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but the Islamic State group operates across the border in Afghanistan.
Maulana Ziaullah, the local chief of Rehman’s party, was among the dead. Senator Abdur Rasheed and former lawmaker Maulana Jamaluddin was also on the stage but escaped unhurt. Party officials said Rehman was not in the rally.
Rehman is considered to be a pro-Taliban cleric and his political party is part of the coalition government in Islamabad. It is not known whether Rehman was present. Meetings are being organized across the country to mobilize supporters for the coming elections.
Bajur, once used to be a tribal region but now a district, has been a safe haven for Islamic militants until recent years when Pakistani military carried out massive operations to eliminate militancy from the tribal region. Militants still strike attacking security forces and civilians often.