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Pakistan: 54 killed and at least 130 injured in ISIS-K suicide attack at an election rally, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

On Sunday 31 July, 54 people were killed and over 130 injured at a political rally organised by supporters of the hardline Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI-F) party in Khar. A suicide bomber detonated their explosive vest near the convention’s stage.

Islamic State Khorasan province (ISIS-K) claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed a local party leader and at least five children. It’s one of the worst attacks in Pakistan in the last decade.

ISIS-K has previously targeted JUI-F party leaders, as it considers them apostates.

This attack is the deadliest incident AOAV has recorded in Pakistan so far in 2023. Since the beginning of this year, AOAV has recorded 119 incidents of explosive violence and 478 civilian casualties (112 killed, 366 injured). 71 of those incidents were IED attacks, which have killed 94 civilians and injured 296 so far. IEDs account for 82% of civilian casualties from explosive violence in Pakistan in 2023. 

AOAV has recorded 18 suicide IED attacks in Pakistan so far in 2023, or 25% of all 71 IED attacks recorded so far – however, suicide IED attacks have caused 63% (246) of civilian casualties from IEDs this year. 

The Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) has been the most active known armed group in Pakistan this year, accounting for 14% (10) of IED attacks recorded so far. 3% (2) of IED attacks were attributed to ISIS-K. One attack was attributed to the Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP), and one to the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF).  

Overall, AOAV has recorded 1,445 IED attacks in Pakistan since we started recording in 2010, and 17,027 civilian casualties (4,184 killed, 12,843 injured). 214 of those attacks, or 15%, were reported as suicide attacks, and they caused 43% (7,342) of civilian casualties of IEDs in Pakistan since 2010.

In 2022, Pakistan experienced the most injurious year since 2018, with AOAV recording 721 civilian casualties of explosive weapons use across 126 incidents. This marked a 62% increase from 445 civilian casualties recorded across 100 incidents in 2021. 

Most notably, incidents of explosive weapon use by non-state actors rose by 31% last year, from 71 to 93 incidents, and civilian casualties of such attacks rose by 47% from 376 to 554. IEDs caused 71% (515) of civilian casualties in Pakistan over the past year. The Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) were the predominant known perpetrators of explosive violence in the country, and in November 2022 the TTP called off a ceasefire with the Pakistani government, suggesting that non-state actors will continue to increase their activity in Pakistan. 

AOAV’s casualty figures represent the lowest of estimations in terms of the number of people killed and injured by explosive weapon use. In an effort to quantify the explicit harm caused by specific explosive weapons, AOAV solely records incident-specific casualty figures, as reported in English-language media.

AOAV condemns the use of violence against civilians and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. All actors should stop using explosive weapons with wide-area effects where there is likely to be a high concentration of civilians.