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KHAR: The Islamic State group claimed responsibility Monday for a suicide bomb blast in Bajaur that killed at least 54 people, including 23 children, at a JUI-F gathering ahead of elections due later this year. The blast has raised fears country could be in for a bloody election period following months of political chaos prompted by the ousting of Imran Khan as prime minister in April last year.

Around 400 members of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F (JUI-F) — a key government coalition partner led by a firebrand cleric — were waiting Sunday for speeches to begin when a bomber detonated a vest packed with explosives and ball bearings near the front stage.

“I was confronted with a devastating sight — lifeless bodies scattered on the ground while people cried out for help,” Fazal Aman, who was near the tent when the bomb went off, told AFP. Shaukat Abbas, a senior official with the counter-terrorism department (CTD) told AFP that 54 people had been killed, including 23 under the age of 18. On Monday the Islamic state group claimed responsibility.

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