KHAR, Pakistan (AP) — The death toll from the weekend suicide bombing at a rally of a pro-Taliban Islamist party in Pakistan jumped to 63, doctors said Wednesday, in the wake of one of the country’s worst attacks in recent years.
The tally from Sunday’s explosion rose after a bomber struck an election campaign rally of supporters of a pro-Taliban cleric Fazlur Rehman in Bajur, where the Pakistani military spent years fighting the Pakistani Taliban before declaring the district clear of militants in 2016. But Rehman’s Jamiat Ulema Islam party has remained a potent political force closely linked to the Afghan Taliban.
Some 123 people who had been wounded in Sunday’s attack near the Afghanistan border are being treated, according to a hospital official. Nearly 200 people were wounded and 80 have been discharged.
“I can confirm that so far 63 people have died in the suicide bombing,” Liaquat Ali, a spokesman for the state-run hospital in Bajur, said Wednesday. He said some of the wounded people are still being treated at hospitals in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
He said some of the wounded were still not in stable condition.
The latest casualty figures were announced a day after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif asked neighboring Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers to do more to prevent militants from crossing the border to stage attacks.
Rehman’s rally was targeted Sunday by an Afghan-based branch of the Islamic State group, which has claimed responsibility for the Bajur attack. IS militants are Taliban rivals and have stepped up attacks since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021.
Sharif, after visiting some of the wounded people at a hospital in Peshawar, said the militants found sanctuaries inside Afghanistan, regrouped and rearmed there, and subsequently infiltrated Pakistan to carry out anti-government attacks.
The Afghan Taliban government “should undertake concrete measures toward denying their soil be used for transnational terrorism,” he said on Tuesday. Rehman’s party is part of Sharif’s coalition government.
Rehman on Wednesday demanded the arrest of all those who were behind the bombing.
The Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, is a separate group but allied with the Afghan Taliban. TTP has carried out several deadly attacks in Pakistan since last year when it ended a ceasefire with the government. However, it has denounced the Bajur bombing.
A Taliban attack on an army-run school in Peshawar in 2014 killed 147 people, mostly schoolchildren. In January, 74 people were killed in a bombing at a mosque in Peshawar. And in February, more than 100 people, mostly policemen, died in a mosque bombing inside Pesharwar police headquarters.
Ahmed reported from Islamabad.