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Pakistani politician among 20 killed in Taliban suicide blast at poll rally

Press Trust of India/Peshawar 11 Jul 18 | 11:58 AM

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At least 20 people, including a senior Awami National Party (ANP) leader, were killed and more than 30 others injured after a Taliban suicide bomber attacked an election rally in Pakistan's northwestern Peshawar city, the second terrorist attack on a poll rally ahead of the July 25 general elections. 

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The blast took place shortly before midnight on Tuesday when ANP leader Haroon Bilour, who was contesting elections from PK-78 constituency in Peshawar city, along with other party workers had gathered for a corner meeting in the congested Yakatoot area. 

The blast occurred near Bilour's vehicle. Bilour was the son of the late ANP leader Bashir Bilour, who was also killed in a suicide attack when a Pakistani Taliban bomber blew himself up at a party meet in Peshawar in 2012. 

The death toll was initially reported at 13 but it rose to 20 overnight, Lady Reading Hospital's spokesperson Zulfiqar Ali Baba Khel was quoted as saying by the Dawn.

City police chief Qazi Jameel said Bilour was among those killed. More than 30 people were injured in the explosion.

The Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for the bombing.  

Mohammad Khurasani, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, said in a statement that they targeted ANP's rally, killing Bilour, a candidate for a seat in the provincial legislature in Peshawar.

Bilour had suffered serious injuries in the blast and was shifted to the hospital where he succumbed to the wounds.

Bomb disposal squad chief Shafqat Malik said an eight-kg TNT explosive was used in the blast.

Rescue teams and law enforcement agencies have reached the site of the blast and investigations into the attack are underway.

This is the second terrorist attack on an election rally in Pakistan ahead of the July 25 general elections.

Earlier this month, seven people, including a candidate of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, were injured in an explosion during an election rally near Takhtikhel, which is also in the KPK province.

ANP supporters gathered outside the hospital and shouted slogans against the government for its failure to provide security to their leader.

Pakistan's Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sardar Muhammad Raza strongly condemned the attack.

"This shows the weakness of our security institutions and a conspiracy against transparent elections," he said in a statement.

The ANP is a mainstream national party headed by Asfandyar Wali Khan, the grandson of nationalist leader Abdul Ghaffar Khan, commonly referred to as Bacha Khan among the Pushtuns. 

The ANP, which governed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province from 2008 to 2013, has been targeted by the TTP for carrying out operations against militant outfits in the northwestern region of Pakistan and being secular in its ideology.

The militants killed hundreds of ANP leaders and supporters in attacks around the 2013 election.

The National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) on Monday had told a Senate standing committee that some leading political leaders faced death threats from militant outfits ahead of the July 25 general elections in Pakistan. 

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