QUETTA/BANNU: At least 128 people, including Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) candidate Nawabzada Siraj Raisani, were martyred with over 150 wounded when a massive suicide explosion hit an election gathering in the Darengarh area of Mastung on Friday, officials said.
Senior police official Qaim Lashari said more than 1,000 people were in attendance at the rally in the town of Mastung. Officials of the Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) confirmed that it was a suicide blast. They said that around 16-20 kilogrammes of explosives were used in the explosion.
"Human remains and red bloody pieces of flesh were littered everywhere in the compound. Injured people were crying in pain and fear," said local journalist Attah Ullah. One political worker, Salam Baloch, said he heard a "deafening blast" and saw a "thick grey ball of fire and smoke".
"People put... bodies and the injured in rickshaws and other vehicles and rushed them to hospital before rescue officials arrived," he added. Emergency workers also shuttled victims in ambulances as bystanders sobbed in the darkness due to the lack of electricity in the impoverished area. Survivors in blood-smeared clothes were taken to hospitals in Mastung and nearby Quetta, where they were greeted by tense crowds of mourners, an AFP reporter said. The deceased could be seen covered in shrouds.
Following the incident, an emergency was declared in Quetta hospitals, with additional medical staff summoned. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, the group's AMAQ news agency said on Friday.
Lashkari Raisani confirmed his brother Siraj had lost his life in the explosion. "Aslam Raisani and I are also receiving threats," he said. Raisani, a candidate of the recently-formed Balochistan Awami Party from PB-35 constituency, was the younger brother of former Balochistan chief minister Nawab Aslam Raisani. In July 2011, Siraj Raisani lost his 14-year-old son in a terrorist attack in Mastung, in which several others, including security personnel, were killed. Nawabzada Siraj had been chief of the Balochistan Muttahida Mahaz (BMM), formed by Nawab Ghous Bakhsh Raisani in the 1970s, till June this year. He had recently merged BMM with the newly formed BAP. He was contesting PB-35 (Mastung) for the 2018 elections against his own brother, Nawab Aslam Raisani, who is contesting as an independent.
Earlier in the day, four Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) workers were martyred and 36 others, including seven policemen, sustained injuries in a remote-controlled blast targeting Akram Khan Durrani, former chief minister and 10 of the injured was stated to be critical, doctors said. The blast was caused by triggering explosives planted in a motorcycle parked near the Farid Market in Huwaid Khas when Akram Durrani's vehicular convoy passed by. Some nearby buildings and several vehicles including the one carrying Akram Durrani were damaged in the blast.
He was returning from the Huwaid village located at a distance of 14 kilometres from Bannu city after attending a public gathering there when his convoy was attacked at Huwaid Khas. He was accompanied by MMA candidate for provincial assembly constituency PK-89, Malik Shireen, who was also attacked in the limits of NA-35 a few days back. The injured were rushed to the District Headquarters Hospital in Bannu where a state of emergency had already been declared. The dead were identified as Mohammadullah, Adnan and Hazrat Zaman. The injured policemen included Sardaraz Khan, Hazrat Bilal, Zarwali Khan, Rafiullah, Hizbullah, Burhanuddin and Hassan.
Some of the injured civilians were identified as Mir Ajab Khan, Musid Khan, Naik Mohammad, Abdur Razzaq, Asmatullah, Umar Nawaz, Azmatullah, Shahidullah, Umardaraz, Zeeshan, Bilal Khan, Samiullah, Mohammad Ali, Umar Shah, Abdullah, Kifayatullah, Daftar Khan, Mustafa Khan, Ajab Noor, Nasir Khan, Mir Rehman, Mohammad Ali, Zeenat Bibi, Hamza Khan, Mumtaz Ahmad, Maulana Said Khan and Hayatullah.
Soon after the blast, the security forces and police cordoned off the area and launched a search operation to nab suspects. The police said some 40 cops had been deployed at the venue where Akram Durrani addressed the gathering in Huwaid. Akram Durrani has been attacked in the past as well. In 2015, two people were killed and three others injured in an attack on the convoy of Akram Durrani in the Bakkakhel area during the local government election. He is close to JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman and had once helped him to contest and win election for the National Assembly seat from Bannu. Durrani told reporters at the hospital where he had arrived to inquire after the injured that he was satisfied with the security arrangements made by the police for his public meeting. He said the blast took place when he left the venue and covered some distance. Urging the government to compensate the dead and injured, he expressed the resolve that they would not leave the field open and would definitely contest the election.
Meanwhile, caretaker Chief Minister Justice (retd) Dost Muhammad Khan formed a seven-member joint investigation team to probe the Bannu bomb blast. He directed the joint investigation team to move to Bannu to start its work forthwith. He was presiding over an emergency meeting of the provincial caretaker cabinet at the Chief Minister's Secretariat, said a handout.
The caretaker chief minister, who also belongs to Bannu, condemned the bomb attack on the convoy of Akram Durrani. The cabinet prayed for the departed souls and early recovery of those injured. The meeting discussed, evaluated and examined the information gathered about the Peshawar suicide attack, the Bannu bomb blast and the level of threat alert.
The caretaker chief minister ordered monitoring of sensitive areas and providing security to the political parties' leadership and candidates including their rallies, gatherings and corner meetings.
The Caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, PTI Chairman Imran Khan and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari have condemned the attacks. They said anti-state elements would never succeed in fulfilling their designs. They prayed for peace to the departed souls and early recovery of the injured.
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