Blood-stained chairs, scattered ball bearings and shoes shed by the dead, wounded and panicked bore testimony Monday to the carnage caused by a suicide bombing at a Pakistan political event.

At least 54 people were killed, including 23 children, on Sunday when a blast ripped through a gathering of Islamic Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F (JUI-F) party members in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The marquee hoisted in the town of Khar lay mangled and charred the morning after the explosion, partly collapsed onto blood-soaked carpets with around 400 upended red chairs strewn about.

“Upon arriving at the scene, I was confronted with a devastating sight,” Khar resident Fazal Aman, 29, told AFP on Monday.

“Lifeless bodies scattered on the ground while people cried out for help.”

Party paraphernalia, including hats and scarves in JUI-F’s black-and-white branding, were abandoned and trampled into the dusty ground, some flecked with dried blood.

The first funerals for the victims got underway on Monday, including for a pair of cousins aged 16 and 17 where young boys wept by coffins.

“These two were very serious and down-to-earth individuals in our family,” said 24-year-old shopkeeper Najeeb Ullah. “This is a great injustice on our land.”

– Mound of sandals –

Remnants of human flesh and hair could be seen as far as 30 metres (100 feet) from a shattered stage, the apparent epicentre of the blast near Khar’s main bazaar.

Gulistan Khan, a 40-year-old farmer being treated at a nearby hospital, said he was in the third row when the bomb detonated as local JUI-F leaders arrived to crowds chanting slogans.

“I was thrown backwards as if lifted off the ground,” he said.

“The blast was powerful. Flames coming out were very high so I couldn’t see anything.”

A mound of about 40 sandals and shoes had been piled in the shade behind a cordon of yellow police tape as zebra-striped JUI-F flags fluttered in the breeze.

Investigators in rubber gloves and face masks picked through the scene on Monday morning, one using a trowel to scoop up a sample from a dark patch on the floor of the stage.

The site was swarmed by security forces carrying assault rifles and surrounding roads were peppered with police checkpoints.

Regional counter-terrorism deputy inspector general Sohail Khalid told AFP the bomber used around 40 kilograms (90 pounds) of explosives, bound up with ball bearings to cause maximum carnage.

The Islamic State group on Monday claimed responsibility for the attack. The local IS chapter has recently targeted JUI-F, a key government coalition partner led by a firebrand cleric.


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