Bajaur Bomb Attack: Police Search For Clues As Victims Laid To Rest

Bajaur Bomb Attack: Police Search For Clues As Victims Laid To Rest
Hundreds of people gathered in the Bajaur Tribal District on Monday to bury some 44 people who were killed in Sunday's suicide bombing targeting a workers' convention of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) as police gathered evidence and searched for clues about who was responsible for the attack with no group taking responsibility thus far.

At least 44 people were killed, and another 150 were injured during the workers' convention in the Khar Tehsil of the district -- just 45 kilometres from the Afghan border -- on Sunday evening when a suspected suicide bomber detonated his vest near the stage. An estimated 400 people were present in the tented convention, which was attended by a Senator and MNA of the JUI-F. The JUI-F is a key member of the rainbow coalition heading the federal government in Islamabad.

The attack drew condemnation from most parties, including the Afghan Taliban's interim government in Afghanistan and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) -- a militant group which has carried out several high-profile terror attacks in Pakistan of late but almost all targeting security installations or personnel. JUI-F chief demanded the government probe the attack and swiftly bring those responsible to justice.

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A local chapter of the Islamic State group (Islamic State in Khorasan Province - ISKP), has yet to comment on the attack but have in the past targeted JUI-F rallies and leaders.


Police on Monday inspected the site of carnage in Bajaur.

An investigation has been launched into the attack to trace where the explosives and the suicide bomber who wore them came from.

The blast site has been cordoned off using tents, yellow police tape and armed police. Blood-stained shoes and prayer caps still litter the site.

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Forensic investigators dug into the remnants of the blast site with rubber gloves and facemasks on Monday. Evidence from the blast site was scooped into evidence bags for testing.

One telltale signature found at the blast site has been the presence of ball bearings and steel bolts, which were carried on the explosive suicide vest and caused the high casualties. Regional Counter-Terrorism Department Deputy Inspector General Sohail Khalid said they had used around 40 kilograms (90 pounds) of explosives, apart from ball bearings and metal bolts.

Blobs of human flesh could still be seen, strewn 30 metres (100 feet) from the stage where the bomber detonated his device.


Thousands of mourners gathered to attend the first of the funeral ceremonies for the 44 victims. The funeral included caskets carrying the bodies of two young cousins aged 16 and 17.

"This tragedy has shattered our family," said Najib Ullah, the brother of one of the boys.

Rising terrorism and elections

Pakistan has seen a sharp increase in militant attacks since the Afghan Taliban filled the power vacuum in neighbouring Afghanistan in 2021 after the US-led forces evacuated.

In January, a suicide bomber linked to TTP blew himself up in a mosque inside a police compound in Peshawar, killing more than 80 officers among some 200 people.

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Most militant attacks have been focused on regions near the border with Afghanistan. But there have been some attacks as far as in Islamabad, Karachi and Zhob in Balochistan targetting security institutions.

Pakistan has claimed that these attacks are being planned, supplied and bankrolled from Afghan soil -- a charge Kabul denies.

Pakistan was once plagued by almost daily bombings, but a major military clearance operation launched in 2014 in northwestern areas that were formerly Pakistani Taliban strongholds largely restored order.

The seven remote former tribal districts that border Afghanistan, of which Bajaur is one, were later brought into the legal and administrative mainstream after the passage of legislation in 2018.

Analysts say militants in the former tribal areas have become emboldened since the return of the Afghan Taliban.

The blast also coincides with a visit to the country by a senior delegation of Chinese officials, including Vice Premier He Lifeng, who arrived in the capital Sunday evening.

JUI-F, Rehman and ISKP

Sunday's blast, though, has raised fears Pakistan could once again be in for a bloody election following months of political chaos prompted by the ousting of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan as prime minister in April last year.

JUI-F's chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman started his political career as a conservative and hardliner, and while his party continues to advocate for socially conservative policies, he has, in recent years, forged alliances with secular rivals.

In the past, he facilitated talks between the government and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is seen as a rival to ISKP.

Last year, ISKP claimed responsibility for attacks against figures affiliated with JUI-F. They accuse JUI-F of hypocrisy in being a religious party that supports secular governments and the military, which has conducted operations against ISKP and the TTP.

While Rehman's party has, at its best, managed to win little more than a dozen or so seats in parliament, they can be crucial in any coalition, given that they represent a good cross-section of Pakistani society that is religiously inclined. He has also been able to muster street power with thousands mobilised for long marches on short notice.