Authorities in Pakistan said Monday the death toll from a blast in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had risen to at least 45 people.
The explosion occurred in Khar, a town in the tribal area of Bajaur, located near Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. It happened Sunday afternoon during a workers convention of a religious political party, Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI-F).
A video of the meeting captures the moment of the blast.
District Police Officer Nazeer Khan told VOA that evidence collected so far points to the blast being the work of a suicide bomber.
In a tweet, Pakistani Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said an inquiry into the incident has been ordered.
Pakistan has seen a surge in terror attacks since the Afghan Taliban took control in Kabul in August 2021. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, a militant outfit ideologically associated with the Afghan Taliban, has been behind most of those attacks. However, the group denied responsibility for this incident.
In a statement to the media, the central leadership of the TTP, also known as Pakistani Taliban, condemned the attack.
The Afghan Taliban, whom Pakistan accuses of harboring TTP leadership, were also swift to issue a condemnation.
“Such criminal acts are not acceptable and cannot be justified,” Zabiullah Mujahid, the central spokesperson of the Afghan Taliban, said on Twitter.
The de-facto Afghan rulers deny providing a safe haven for anti-Pakistan terrorists.
The incident occurred as Pakistan welcomed the vice premier of the People’s Republic of China, He Lifeng, in the capital Islamabad. The Chinese official is on a three-day visit to celebrate 10 years of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC, Beijing’s multibillion-dollar investment project under its global Belt and Road Initiative.