The death toll from Sunday’s suicide bombing at a Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) gathering in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Bajaur district rose to 54 on Monday as the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) registered a first information report of the attack.
The blast occurred in Khar, a town bordering Afghanistan, and according to eyewitnesses, hundreds of party workers along with local leaders were present at the JUI-F convention when the explosion ripped through it.
JUI-F officials told Dawn that the party’s Khar General Secretary Ziaullah, JUI-F District Press Secretary Mujahid Khan and his son were among the dead.
The militant Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Speaking to the media in Peshawar today, KP CTD Additional Inspector General (IG) Shaukat Abbas said the death toll from the blast had risen to 54 while the number of injured people stood at 83.
He added that 46 of the deceased had been identified.
According to the CTD official, the convention began at 2pm and the blast occurred at four past ten.
“We have collected ball bearings from the site of the blast,” he said, adding that the group behind the blast and that there was no specific target of the attack.
The additional IG further stated that the suspects “have been almost tracked down in the initial action” taken so far, adding that a forensic report pertaining to the incident was awaited.
Earlier today, Dr Naseeb Gul, the district medical superintendent of the Khar hospital, told Dawn.com today that the death toll of the explosion increased to 46 after another injured person succumbed to his wounds.
He said approximately 90 wounded people were brought to the medical facility, adding that 36 bodies had been handed over to the heirs after identification.
Meanwhile, traders in Bajaur have announced a shutter-down strike across the district.
The KP CTD has lodged an FIR against unknown suspects on charges of terrorism, murder, attempted murder and others.
The FIR, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, was registered on the complaint of Station House Officer — Kharniaz Muhammad.
It stated that a “suicide attack” ripped through the JUI-F gathering at around 4:10pm on Sunday, claiming the lives of Maulana Ziaullah Jan — the party’s Khar general secretary — and others.
Separately, Senior Superintendent (SP) Amjad Khan said investigators had already visited the crime site and gathered evidence to advance with the ongoing probe.
He said more than 10 kilogrammes of explosives were used in the attack, adding that the process of geo-fencing at the blast site had also been completed.
Peshawar corps commander visits Bajaur
Earlier today, Peshawar Corps Commander Lt Gen Hassan Azhar Hayat visited the District Headquarters Hospital Khar to inquire about the injured persons.
During his visit, Gen Hayat directed the hospital administration to ensure that all victims receive the best possible medical treatment.
Additionally, he also met with the family members of those injured and killed in the explosion and extended his condolences over the incident.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa caretaker Chief Minister Muhammad Azam Khan also visited the injured persons at the District Headquarters Hospital in Khar in the afternoon.
He was accompanied by KP Health Minister Riaz Anwar, Chief Secretary Nadeem Aslam Chaudhry, and the provincial police chief.
The CM met all the injured persons individually and inquired about their well-being, a statement issued by the CM House said.
“I am personally monitoring the process of providing treatment to the injured,” he told media persons on his visit. “The provincial government is an equal participant in the grief of the affected families.”
Azam added that he was deeply saddened by the loss of precious human lives in the blast. “No matter how much the blast is condemned, targeting peaceful citizens is a very heinous act.”
He concluded that the security forces had made countless sacrifices for the establishment of law and order and vowed that these efforts would go in vain.
Surge in terrorism
Bajaur is one of seven remote districts bordering Afghanistan in a region that was once a focal point in the global war on terror.
Over the past few months, the law and order situation in Pakistan has worsened, with terrorist groups executing attacks with near impunity across the country.
Since the talks with the TTP broke down in November, the militant group has intensified its attacks, particularly targeting the police in KP and areas bordering Afghanistan. Insurgents in Balochistan have also stepped up their violent activities and formalised a nexus with the outlawed TTP.
A report released this month by think tank Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies said the first half of the current year witnessed a steady and alarming rise in terror and suicide attacks, claiming the lives of 389 people across the country.
Last week, a policeman was martyred in a “suicide blast” inside a mosque in the Jamrud area of KP’s Khyber district.
In January, a suicide bomber linked to TTP blew himself up in a mosque inside a police compound in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing more than 80 officers.
The militant assaults have been focused on regions abutting Afghanistan, and Islamabad alleges some are being planned on Afghan soil — a charge Kabul denies.
Earlier this month, the armed forces of Pakistan expressed “serious concerns on the safe havens and liberty of action available to” the banned TTP in Afghanistan.
“The involvement of Afghan nationals in acts of terrorism in Pakistan is another important concern that needs to be addressed. Such attacks are intolerable and would elicit an effective response from the security forces of Pakistan,” it said.
Additional reporting by Tahir Khan