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Blast rips through political gathering in Pakistan, killing at least 54


By Sophia Saifi and Allegra Goodwin, CNN

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) — At least 54 people died after a suicide bomber attacked a political convention organized by an Islamist party in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday, police said.

Shaukat Abbas, deputy inspector general of police, said 12 of those who died were under the age of 12.

More than 100 were injured, 17 critically, in the attack targeting members of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) party, who had gathered in the town of Khar, Bajaur district, close to the border with Afghanistan.

Local police said the attacker detonated explosives near the convention’s stage.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the terrorist group’s media affiliate Amaaq News. The group said it was part of its ongoing conflict against democracy, which it views as hostile to the principles of “true Islam” and in opposition to its “divine law.” 

The local branch of ISIS has previously targeted JUI-F party leaders as it considers them apostates.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif “strongly condemned” the blast, according to a statement released by his office.

An investigation is underway, and the prime minister’s office has requested a report from Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, the statement added.

The leader of the JUI-F party, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, expressed “deep sorrow and regret” following the blast, in a statement released by his press office.

“‎Peace be upon JUI workers,” the statement added. “The federal and provincial government should provide the best treatment to the injured.”

One witness said more than 500 people were attending the convention when the blast occurred.

“A powerful explosion knocked me unconscious,” Rahim Shah told Pakistani news outlet Dawn.

When he came around there were “people screaming and even shots were fired,” he said, adding there was blood everywhere.

Pakistani political parties are beginning campaign preparations ahead of elections due later this year.

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