PARACHINAR, Feb 16: A bomb explosion rocked a rally organised by the People’s Party here on Saturday, killing 40 people and bringing the election campaign to an unpropitious end.

The bomb, planted in a car parked near the election office of a PPP-backed candidate, went off even as a procession terminated at the place. Syed Riaz Hussain, the candidate, escaped unhurt.

Although the exact nature of the blast could not be ascertained, Political Agent Syed Zaheerul Islam told Dawn that it was a suicide attack.

He put the death toll at 37 and the number of the injured at 93.

Doctors said that 110 wounded people, 50 of them critical, had been brought to the town’s main hospital. Seven shops and 10 vehicles were damaged.

The explosion sparked riots in the town and a number of abandoned houses and shops were torched. Troops opened fire to quell the disturbances, injuring several people.

According to eyewitnesses, a suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden car blew himself up when a procession reached the PPP’s election office. The car came from the opposite direction.

“Twenty bodies have been brought to the main mosque in the city and it is feared more bodies will come,” said a spokesman. He said that many bodies were beyond recognition.

A suicide bomber had exploded his explosives-laden car at the same place on Aug 4, killing 12 people and wounding 35 others.

The Kurram tribal region, some 250kms west of Peshawar, had suffered the worst sectarian clash last year in which more than 600 people were killed.

The witnesses said that the explosion ripped through the rally when PPP workers were dancing to drumbeats. The area, a part of NA-37 with 141,190 registered voters, is considered a stronghold of the PPP.

An eyewitness said the blast also hit a passenger coach, killing all 15 people on board. “Several mutilated bodies are lying in the hospital.”

An emergency was declared in the hospital and appeals were made for blood donation. Many people suffered burn injuries. Announcements were also made through loudspeakers, asking people to dig graveyards.

Ambulances were called from Hangu district to shift critically injured people to hospitals in Peshawar, an official said.

Zulfiqar Ali contributed to this report from Peshawar.

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