Pakistan held funerals on Monday, July 31, 2023 as the death toll from a deadly blast at a political rally rose to 54. According to physician Gul Naseeb, the death toll continued to rise as critically wounded people died in hospital.
A large number of mourners attended the funerals, carrying caskets draped in colourful cloths. In line with local customs, hundreds of men followed the caskets to mosques and open areas for special funeral prayers and then into the hills for burial.
The victims were at a rally organized by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, headed by hardline politician and Muslim leader, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, when the bombing occurred on Sunday, July 30, 2023.
Rehman did not attend the rally, held close to a market in Bajaur, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province that borders Afghanistan. The gathering was held in a hall but due to the large number of supporters who turned out, tents were later added.
While no one immediately claimed responsibility for Sunday’s bomb blast, which also left nearly 200 people injured, police disclosed that their initial investigation suggested that the ISIL (ISIS) regional affiliate could be responsible.
The government promised to hunt down those behind the attack.
Rehman, who has long supported Afghanistan’s Taliban government, escaped at least two known bomb attacks in 2011 and 2014 when bombings damaged his car at rallies.
As condolences continued to pour in from across the country on Monday, dozens of people who received minor injuries were discharged from hospital while the critically wounded were taken to the provincial capital of Peshawar by army helicopters.
Also on Monday, police recorded statements from some of the wounded at a hospital in Khar, Bajaur’s largest town.
The death toll rose to at least 54 on Monday, as around 90 injured people were still being treated at hospitals in the northeastern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, rescue official Bilal Faizi disclosed.
Police Confirms Suicide Bombing As Cause Of Explosion
Provincial police Chief, Akhtar Hayat Khan confirmed that the explosion was caused by a suicide bombing. He revealed that DNA testing was being conducted to identify the bomber.
Local police Chief Nazir Khan also disclosed that at least three suspects were arrested overnight in a possible link with the bombing and were being interrogated by the intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
“What we have concluded from the initial investigation is that the attack carries the hallmark of Daesh [ISIL],” Khan said.
Police said their initial investigation suggested that the Islamic State 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 also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, as possible suspects.
The Islamic State in Khorasan Province, which police identified as a suspect in the attack, is based in neighboring Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province and is a rival of the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaida.
Pakistani security Analyst, Mahmood Shah stated that some TTP members have been known to disobey their top leadership to carry out attacks, as have breakaway factions of the group.
Shah opined that such factions could have perpetrated the attack to cause “confusion, instability and unrest ahead of the elections.”
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. In February, more than 100 people, mostly policemen, died in a bombing at a mosque inside a high-security compound housing Peshawar police headquarters.
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