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Pakistan’s PM calls on Afghan Taliban to act against cross-border militant attacks after deadly bombing

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Pakistan’s prime minister on Tuesday asked neighboring Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers to do more to prevent militants from crossing the border to stage attacks such as the massive suicide bombing earlier this week that killed dozens in a border region.

The appeal came days after the bomber struck an election campaign rally of supporters of a pro-Taliban cleric on Sunday, killing dozens and wounding scores in the district of Bajur. The death toll from the bombing rose to 55 on Tuesday, after a critically wounded person died in hospital in the northwestern city of Peshawar, hospital officials and the government said.

An Afghan-based branch of the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the Bajur attack. IS militants are Taliban rivals and have stepped up attacks since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said the militants find sanctuaries inside Afghanistan, regroup and rearm there, and subsequently infiltrate Pakistan where they carry out anti-government attacks.

The Afghan Taliban government “should undertake concrete measures toward denying their soil be used for transnational terrorism,” he said while visiting some of the wounded in a Peshawar hospital.

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Injured people lie on hospital beds

Injured people lie on the bed at a hospital after Sunday’s suicide bomber attack, in the Bajur district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, on July 31, 2023.  (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

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The bomber targeted a rally of the radical Jamiat Ulema Islam party, which is part of Sharif’s coalition government and also has ties to the Afghan Taliban. The party has a strong following in northwestern Pakistan.

The U.N. Security Council strongly condemned the suicide bombing in Bajur and “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,” describing it as “one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.” Members of the council called for the perpetrators to be held accountable and for other countries to cooperate with Pakistan on the matter.

Northwestern Pakistan was formerly a militant stronghold until successive military operations claimed to have routed militants from there, including the Pakistani Taliban, a separate group but allied wiith the Afghan Taliban. The group is also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP.

The Bajur bombing was the latest in several huge attacks over the past years. A Taliban attack on an army-run school in Peshawar in 2014 killed 147 people, mostly schoolchildren. In January, 74 people were killed in a bombing at a mosque in Peshawar. And in February, more than 100 people, mostly policemen, died in a mosque bombing inside Pesharwar police headquarters.

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