A deadly explosion ripped through a political gathering in Pakistan’s north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Sunday, killing at least 44 people and injuring more than 70 others, according to local media reports.
The blast occurred at a workers convention of the conservative Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, known for its links to hardline Islamism, in the Bajaur district, near the border with Afghanistan. The party leader, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, was not present at the event.
The cause of the blast was not immediately clear, but police said they were investigating the possibility of a suicide attack or a planted device. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack so far.
Pakistan has seen a resurgence of attacks by Islamist militants since last year when a ceasefire between the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Islamabad broke down. The TTP pledges allegiance to, but is not directly a part of, Afghanistan’s Taliban.
The attack was condemned by Afghanistan’s administration, which said it was “deeply saddened by the loss of innocent lives”. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan also expressed his grief and condolences to the families of the victims and ordered an inquiry into the incident.
The blast was one of the deadliest attacks on civilians in Pakistan in recent years. In January, a bomb exploded at a mosque in Peshawar, killing 15 people and wounding 20 others. In December last year, a car bomb killed 10 people and wounded 30 others at a market in Balochistan province.