Islamic State-Khorasan terrorists have claimed responsibility for Sunday’s suicide bombing in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which targeted a campaign rally of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) party.
The group, also known as ISIS-K, made a statement taking responsibility for the blast on Monday. Pakistani police already suspected them, amid speculations that a splinter of the Taliban might have been involved.
An estimated 1,000 people were inside a tent in the town of Khar when a bomber detonated his suicide vest stuffed with ball bearings near the stage where JUI leader Fazal-ur-Rehman was scheduled to speak.
As of Monday evening, the death toll stood at 54, of which 23 were under the age of 18, Counter-terrorism official Shaukat Abbas told AFP.
ISIS-K was also behind the August 2021 suicide bombing at Kabul airport, which killed 13 US military personnel and dozens of Afghan civilians, during the American pullout from Afghanistan.
Pakistani authorities initially suspected a splinter Taliban group known as TPP, which was behind the two deadly bombings in the provincial capital of Peshawar earlier this year. A blast in January killed 74 people inside a mosque. Another bombing in February also targeted a mosque and claimed the lives of over 100 police officers. The TTP was also behind the 2014 bombing that killed 147 people, mostly schoolchildren, at a Peshawar school.
The Afghan Taliban condemned Sunday’s attack in Khar, with spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeting that “such crimes cannot be justified in any way.”
Rehman’s JUI is part of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s ruling coalition, which took power in April 2022 after ousting PM Imran Khan through a no-confidence vote in the National Assembly.
Khan seeks to return to power in the upcoming general election, and has accused Sharif of attempting to stop him through politically motivated charges. A new election must be held within 60 days of August 13, when the parliament is due to disband.