Islamabad, July 31 (EFE).- The death toll in a suicide bombing at a crowded political rally in northwest Pakistan has risen to 44, police said on Monday.
A suicide bomber blew himself up near the podium in Khar town of Bajour district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Sunday.
The area, near the border with Afghanistan, was a previous stronghold of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — which is not directly linked but shares its ideological links with Afghanistan’s Taliban movement.
The rally was organized by the pro-Taliban Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), a religiopolitical group, part of the coalition government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
“The death toll is now at 44 and more than 100 are injured,” police officer Shafiq Ullah told EFE.
He said the investigation was underway, and no one had been arrested.
The Taliban government in Afghanistan, which has close links with JUI-F, condemned the attack.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or the Pakistani Taliban, also condemned the attack.
Since the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, the TTP has increased its insurgent activities in Pakistan, fighting to overthrow the central government in Islamabad and impose its own brand of Shariah law.
The US Embassy in Islamabad “strongly” condemned the “heinous act of violence, which resulted in the loss of innocent lives and caused harm to many others.”
“We reiterate our commitment to supporting Pakistan’s efforts in combating terrorism and ensuring the safety and security of its citizens.”
In a statement, ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan warned of another wave of terror in the country, which has already lost over 80,000 people and over 6,000 security personnel in insurgency-related incidents during the last two decades.
“The rise in terror incidents across Pakistan particularly in KP, calls for an urgent need to reconsider our priorities,” Khan said in his statement on Twitter.
He urged those in power to shift their focus from “political engineering” to directing the state’s efforts and resources to fight terror.
Khan referred to the powerful military, who he blames for crushing his political party before the general elections due in November.
Pakistan has seen a surge in terrorism-related incidents since the fall of Kabul to the Afghan Taliban.
Islamabad has accused the Afghan Taliban of providing “safe havens” to the TTP leadership and fighters on their soil.
The Afghan Taliban has denied the charges.
Bajaur, one of seven remote districts bordering Afghanistan, was previously a stronghold of the TTP fighters before the Pakistani military started an offensive in 2014.
The law and order situation in KPK and Balochistan has worsened over the past few months.