BAJAUR / KHAR: The so-called Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) group on Monday claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing at a JUI-F political gathering, as the toll from the tragedy rose to 54, including 23 minors.
According to Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) Additional Inspector General Shaukat Abbas, at least 83 people were hurt in the attack, while Dr Naseeb Gul of Khar DHQ hospital feared that the toll might rise further, since some of the injured were still in very critical condition.
The AIG told Dawn: “We have collected the evidence, identified the group and we are waiting for the forensic report.”
According to APP, AIG Abbas told reporters the convention began at 2pm on Sunday and the explosion occurred two hours later.
IS-Khorasan claims responsibility; police register FIR against ‘unknown’ suspects
He said statements of the injured had been recorded while the process of geo-fencing at the site of the explosion has been completed.
The CTD also registered an FIR against unidentified suspects over Sunday’s suicide bombing, which includes charges of terrorism, murder and attempted murder.
In a statement issued on Monday, District Police Officer (DPO) Nazeer Khan said that as per the investigation, up to 12kg of explosives was used in the attack.
Amaq, the propaganda arm of IS-K — which has also claimed responsibility for earlier attacks on the JUI-F — said on Monday that a suicide attacker detonated his explosive jacket in the middle of a crowd in Khar.
Sources in the Khar DHQ hospital told Dawn that at least 16 children between the ages of 12 and 15, were among the dead and wounded.
At least 36 of those who perished on Sunday were laid to rest in their native villages after funeral prayers in the Nawagai, Mamond, Sadiqabad, Inayat Kallay, Khar, Shinkoot, Shandi and Alzai localities, which were attended by hundreds of people from all walks of life.
JUI-F’s Khar emir Ziaullah, his information secretary Mujahid Khan and his 22-year old son were among those laid to rest on Sunday night.
Among those buried on Monday was a pair of cousins aged 16 and 17.
“These two were very serious and down-to-earth individuals in our family,” 24-year-old shopkeeper Najeeb Ullah told AFP as young boys wept by the coffins.
According to APP, 20-year-old Ejaz Ahmad, who had tied the knot less than a couple of weeks ago, was also among the deceased.
Abuzar Khan, a potato chip-seller and lone brother to seven sisters, was also among the victims.
Meanwhile, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa caretaker chief minister Mohammad Azam Khan and Peshawar Corps Commander Lt Gen Sardar Hassan Azhar Hayat Khan visited Bajaur on Monday.
According to an official statement, the CM also met a delegation of elders, political and social activists and religious figures, at a jirga held in the Civil Colony area.
The CM expressed his grief over Sunday’s tragedy and assured the jirga the government would extend financial support to the families of the deceased and wounded.
The mood in the area remains grim, with traders announcing shutdown strike across the district.
According to AFP, local JUI-F officials hit out at the government for failing to provide security in areas where militants operate.
“The state has not fulfilled its responsibilities. I think the state has failed regardless of who is in power,” said Shamsuz Zaman, deputy general secretary of its Bajaur branch, urging the government to take notice of the situation.
On Monday, 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.
The marquee lay mangled and charred the morning after the explosion, partly collapsed onto blood-soaked carpets with around 400 upended red chairs strewn about.
Investigators in rubber gloves and facemasks picked through the scene, one using a trowel to scoop up a sample from a dark patch on the floor of the stage.
Imran Mahir, a rally organiser, told BBC Newsemphasized text that in the aftermath of the blast, “it was like doomsday”.
“It was a big sound. I initially thought there was a problem with the generator or the sound system. My ears have been ringing and hurting. My head is still hurting.”
“Upon arriving at the scene, I was confronted with a devastating sight — lifeless bodies scattered on the ground while people cried out for help,” Fazal Aman, who was near the tent when the bomb went off, told AFP.
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.”
Last year, IS-K said it was behind attacks against religious scholars affiliated with JUI-F, which has a network of mosques and schools. In June, it said they were behind the assassination of a party official in the village of Inayat Killi, according to BBC News.
The group accuses the JUI-F of hypocrisy for being a religious party while supporting secular governments and the military.
Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2023