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Attack on anti-Taliban rally in Pakistan leaves 20 dead

July 12, 2018 00:00:00


PESHAWAR : Pakistani residents burying a blast victim on Wednesday — AFP

PESHAWAR, July 11 (Agencies): A suicide bomber blew himself up at a rally by an anti-Taliban political party in Pakistan, killing 20 people, including a candidate in July 25 elections, police and hospital officials said on Wednesday.

Awami National Party (ANP) candidate Haroon Bilour was killed in the late Tuesday blast in the northwestern city of Peshawar. His father, senior ANP leader Bashir Bilour, was killed in a suicide bombing in late 2012, in the run-up to Pakistan's last election.

"The death toll from last night's suicide attack has reached 20 while we have 65 injured, some of them in critical condition," Zulfiqar Ali Babakhel, a spokesman for Peshawar's main Lady Reading Hospital, told Reuters.

The ANP is a predominantly secular, ethnic Pashtun nationalist party, which has long competed with Islamist parties for votes in Pakistan's volatile Pashtun lands, along the border with Afghanistan.

Islamist militants have attacked the party numerous times over the years, including in the run-up to the last election, in 2013

Haroon Bilour had hoped to win a provincial assembly seat in July.

Overall, violence in Pakistan has decreased in recent years after several military offensives against militant strongholds in the northwest.

But many militants have escaped into neighboring Afghanistan, from where Islamabad says they launch attacks back into Pakistan.

Last month, a US drone strike killed Pakistani Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah in eastern Afghanistan. Fazlullah had claimed responsibility for most of the attacks against the ANP before the 2013 election on the grounds that it had supported an army offensive against the militants.

The military announced on Tuesday it would deploy more than 371,000 troops to ensure peaceful and fair and free elections on July 25.

The Pakistani Taliban on Wednesday claimed responsibility for an overnight suicide bombing at a rally that killed politician and 20 others before nationwide elections.

Mohammad Khurasani, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, said they targeted the Awami National Party rally in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing Haroon Ahmed Bilour, a candidate for a seat in the provincial legislature. Another 65 people were wounded.


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