No less than 40 folks had been killed in a suspected suicide bomb blast concentrating on a political conference in northwest Pakistan on Sunday, elevating new considerations over the mounting scale of assaults because the nation prepares for a normal election later this yr.

The blast struck a gathering for Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, close to the border with Afghanistan, and injured almost 200 folks, in response to the provincial info minister, Feroze Jamal Shah Kakakhel.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, or JUI, is a right-wing political and non secular social gathering led by hard-line cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman, an ally of the Taliban management in neighboring Afghanistan. The social gathering helps electoral politics in Pakistan — and is a part of the ruling coalition — however has taken ultraconservative positions on points akin to ladies’s rights.

As many as 500 folks attended the convention Sunday within the Bajaur district, as JUI prepares for the upcoming election, stated Ayaz Khan, a celebration spokesman. Pakistan’s governing coalition agreed to dissolve Parliament subsequent month, which might set off a normal election earlier than the top of the yr.

Militant teams and extra extremist events had hoped to realize momentum within the lead-up to that vote, as Pakistan grapples with excessive inflation, a faltering financial system, and tensions between the federal government and former prime minister Imran Khan. Comparable gatherings just like the one held in Bajaur on Sunday have been going down throughout the nation to mobilize supporters and voters.

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However the lethal blast was a grim reminder of the latest resurgence of violence throughout Pakistan, which for years battled militants in its restive border areas.

Terrorist assaults have skyrocketed since peace talks between the federal government and the Pakistani Taliban — generally known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP — collapsed in November. Earlier this yr, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at a mosque inside a police compound in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, killing no less than 95 folks, in one of many deadliest assaults ever on Pakistan’s safety forces.

Earlier than that, the TTP had largely been cowed by a harsh army crackdown that routed its fighters and quashed its affect. However the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan two years in the past gave a lift to the flagging motion, offering TTP leaders with political help and an important secure haven.

The TTP pledges allegiance to the Taliban in Afghanistan however stays a separate group. And on Sunday, each the Taliban in Afghanistan and the TTP condemned the suicide bombing.

“Such crimes can’t be justified in any approach,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid stated on Twitter, which was not too long ago renamed X.

Officers on Sunday stated it was unclear who was behind the assault, and no group instantly claimed duty. However Bajaur is a former TTP stronghold, and a regional department of the Islamic State group operates close by.

Mir Wali, a police spokesman in Bajaur, confirmed to The Washington Put up that the blast was brought on by a suicide bomber and that greater than 40 folks had been killed. The social gathering’s native chief, Maulana Ziaullah, was among the many useless, in response to native media and the Related Press.

Images launched by Pakistani authorities confirmed victims with extreme wounds being taken to close by hospitals by helicopter. In a press release, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif stated the assault was “abhorrent” and an “act of cowardice,” including that it was stunning that the attacker “dared to focus on folks gathering to speak about Islam and the prosperity and security of Pakistan.”

Pakistan reels after bombing kills virtually 100, fears extra terrorism to come back

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad additionally denounced the assault.

“We strongly condemn this heinous act of violence, which resulted within the lack of harmless lives and triggered hurt to many others. Such acts of terror don’t have any place in a peaceable and democratic society,” the embassy stated in a press release.

Noack reported from Paris, Hussain from Islamabad and Khan from Peshawar.


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