A suicide bomber at a political rally in southwest Pakistan Friday killed 128 people in one of the deadliest attacks in the country’s history.
The blast — which has since been claimed by the decimated Islamic State group — ripped through the crowd in the town of Mastung near the Balochistan provincial capital Quetta.
“The death toll has risen to 128,” Balochistan home minister Agha Umar Bungalzai told AFP.
It was the latest in a string of attacks that have spurred fears of violence ahead of nationwide polls on July 25 and underscored the fragility of Pakistan’s dramatic gains in security.
Emergency workers shuttled victims to nearby vehicles from the flattened compound amid hysteria among bystanders in the darkness due to the lack of electricity in the impoverished area.
Victims in blood-smeared clothes were taken to hospitals in Mastung and nearby Quetta, where they were greeted by tense crowds of mourners.
“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.
According to senior provincial official Saeed Jamali, the bomber detonated in the middle of a compound where a political meeting was taking place.
The attack was the most lethal since Taliban militants assaulted a school in the northwestern city of Peshawar in 2014, killing over 150 people, mostly children, and one of the deadliest in Pakistan’s long struggle with militancy.
It came hours after four people were killed and 39 injured when a bomb hidden inside a motorcycle detonated near a Pakistani politician’s convoy in Bannu on Friday, near the border with Afghanistan.
The Islamic State group has a muted presence in Pakistan but has carried out brutal attacks there in the past, including the blast at a Sufi shrine in February last year which killed nearly 90 people.