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Suicide bomber kills 54 at political rally in Pakistan

A suicide bomb attack at a political rally in Northwestern Pakistan has killed 54 people and wounded over 200, according to officials. 

The blast occurred on Sunday at a political event attended by the conservative Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) party members in Pakistan’s northwestern Bajaur district. 

No claim of responsibility has been made by any known terrorist groups. 

Provincial police, in a statement, stated that the suicide bomber detonated the bomb close to the stage of the political event where many senior party members were sitting. 

The police also said the initial findings point towards a possible ISIL ( ISIS ) group attack, although investigations are ongoing. 

The provincial information minister Feroz Jamal told The Associated Press news agency that 44 people had been “martyred” and nearly 200 wounded in the attack. The death toll has now increased to 54. 

An emergency was declared in all nearby hospitals where victims of the suicide bomb blast were taken. Some critically wounded victims were flown in military helicopters to hospitals in the provincial capital Peshawar. 

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif strongly condemned the incident and extended his condolences to the families of the deceased, especially the family of the JUI-F leader, Ziaullah Jan, who was confirmed killed in the blast, according to Radio Pakistan. 

In a statement, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed deep sorrow over the loss of precious lives. The statement by her party, The Pakistan Peoples Party, added that terrorists, their facilitators, and planners need to be eliminated so that peace is established in the country. 

Interior Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb reacted to the incident on social media, stating that the “ religion of terrorists is only terrorism.” 

“Ending terrorism is very important for the survival and integrity of Pakistan,” she wrote. 

Nizam Salarzai, a journalist at an independent news outlet, explained that the JUI-F party had been attacked by the ISIL (ISIS) group in the past two years. 

“They have a problem with the Afghan Taliban as well and anyone who approves of Taliban sentiments,” Mr Salarzai told Al Jazeera. 

Abdul Rasheed, the regional chief of the party, explained that the attack on the JUI-F party was an attempt to remove JUI-F from the field before parliamentary elections in November. 

“Many of our fellows lost their lives, and many more wounded in this incident. I will ask the federal and provincial administrations to fully investigate this incident and provide due compensation and medical facilities to the affected ones,” Mr Rasheed said. 

The blast on Sunday is one of the four worst attacks to occur in Northwestern Pakistan since 2014, when 147 were killed in a Taliban attack on an Army-run school in Peshawar.