Bomb at political rally in northwest Pakistan kills at least 44 people and wounds nearly 200

An explosion at a political rally on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan killed at least 44 people and wounded nearly 200 in a Sunday attack that a senior leader said wanted to weaken Pakistani Islamists.

The Bajur district near the Afghan border was a stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban- a close ally of Afghanistan’s Taliban government-before the Pakistani army drove the militants out of the area. Supporters of hardline Pakistani cleric and political party leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman, whose Jamiat Ulema Islam generally supports regional Islamists, were meeting in Bajur Sunday in a hall close to a market outside the district capital. Party officials said Rehman was not at the rally but organizers added tents because so many supporters showed up, and party volunteers with batons were helping control the crowd.

Officials were announcing the arrival of Abdul Rasheed, a leader of the Jamiat Ulema Islam party, when the bomb went off in one of Pakistan’s bloodiest attacks in recent years.

“There was dust and smoke around, and I was under some injured people from where I could hardly stand up, only to see chaos and some scattered limbs,” said Adam Khan, 45, who was knocked to the ground by the blast around 4 p.m. and hit by splinters in his leg and both hands.

The Pakistan Taliban, or TTP, said in a statement sent to The Associated Press that the bombing was aimed at setting Islamists against each other. Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Afghan Taliban, said on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, that “such crimes cannot be justified in any way.”

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