Explosion at political rally in Pakistan kills at least 39

At least 39 people were killed while over 120 were wounded in a blast at a Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) workers’ convention in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s (KP) Bajaur district in Pakistan today.

The explosion occurred when more than 400 JUI-F members and supporters gathered under a tent in the town of Khar, near the border with Afghanistan.

“I can confirm that in the hospital we have 39 dead bodies, with 123 wounded that includes 17 patients in a serious condition,” Riaz Anwar, the health minister for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, told AFP.

Provincial governor Haji Ghulam Ali also confirmed the death toll.

Footage of the site after the blast showed panic-stricken people gathering as ambulances arrived to move the injured to hospitals. Afterwards, a large police contingent cordoned off the area.

KP caretaker Information Minister Firoz Shah said hospitals across Bajaur and neighbouring areas had been put on high alert.

“We are trying to move critical patients to Peshawar and other hospitals through helicopters,” he said while speaking to Geo News.

“Our utmost priority right now is to provide medical treatment to the injured. The blast site has been cordoned off. Pakistan Army and other institutions are assisting us in the operation,” Jamal added.

Meanwhile, Bajaur District Emergency Officer Saad Khan told Dawn.com that Maulana Ziaullah Jan, JUI-F amir in Khar tehsil, was also killed in the blast.

Separately, Bajaur District Health Officer Faisal Kamal said more than 150 injured people had been brought to the Bajaur District Headquarters Hospital while those in critical condition were being moved to the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) in Peshawar.

Dawn.com’s correspondent, who was present at the blast site, said a local journalist was among those injured.

Rahim Shah, a witness, told Dawn.com that more than 500 people were attending the convention when the blast occurred. “We were listening to a bayan [sermon] when a powerful explosion knocked me unconscious,” he said.

Shah narrated that when he regained consciousness, there was blood everywhere. “People were screaming and even shots were fired,” he added.

In a statement issued later in the evening, KP caretaker Chief Minister Azam Khan sought a detailed report on the blast from police and directed authorities to provide the best medical treatment to the injured.

Governor Ali also said in a statement that a helicopter had been sent to Bajaur for the transfer of wounded people.

No one has claimed responsibility for the blast yet.

Copyright: Dawn/Asia News Network

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