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Suspected ISIS Suicide Attack Rocks Pakistan - At Least 54 Dead, Hundreds Injured

By Belal Awad · July 31, 2023

In brief…

  • A suicide bomber killed at least 54 people dead and left hundreds injured in Pakistan's Bajaur District.
  • The event was a gathering of supporters of the Jamiat Ulema e Islam Fazl party, which has ties to the Taliban.
  • Suspicion fell on the Islamic State Khorasan, the Pakistan-Afghanistan branch of ISIS.
  • The attack is seen as an attempt to intimidate the party's supporters ahead of November's parliamentary elections.
Pakistani Armed Forces stationed in North-West Pakistan near where Sunday's suicide-bomb attack took place.  Al Jazeera English/Wikimedia Commons

A suicide bomber killed at least 54 people and left hundreds injured at a crowded event in Pakistan’s Bajaur District Sunday. The incident, which took place at a pro-Taliban election rally near the Afghan border, was a scene of chaos and bloody devastation.

A bystander told Al Jazeera, “I don’t know how and what exactly happened. I just saw a spark and heard a big bang. After the blast, I saw hundreds of people lying on the ground and people started firing in the air.”

Bajaur District, where the attack took place, was a Pakistani Taliban stronghold before being cleared by the army. The Jamiat Ulema e Islam Fazl party has ideological ties with the Taliban, leading analysts to speculate the group was deliberately targeted.

Although no group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, suspicion fell on the Islamic State Khorasan, the Pakistan-Afghanistan branch of ISIS. An unnamed expert told Al Jazeera, “I do think it’s likely that Islamic State Khorasan was behind this attack. This Islamic State branch has targeted the political party in the past because some of its leaders have expressed support for the Taliban and Islamic State. Khorasan is a rival of the Taliban.”

Party leaders view the attack as an attempt to intimidate their supporters ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections in November. Bajaur District, situated near the porous Afghan border, has seen its share of violence and terrorism over the years.

Shaukat Abbas, the head of the regional counter-terrorism unit, told Al Jazeera that terrorism in the region has a complex history spanning decades, with multiple internal and external factors at play. While suspicions point to Daesh (ISIS) involvement, Abbas urged caution, saying, “We have recently arrested one of the gangs in Peshawar. There could be a possibility of their involvement here. So far, we’ve been working on it, but it will be premature to say anything conclusively about them. But we’re working on it.”

Bajaur District’s proximity to Afghanistan and its past association with Al-Qaeda raise further concerns over the security and stability of the region.