News ID: 218112
Published: 0222 GMT July 11, 2018

Suicide bombing kills 21 at Pakistan election rally

Suicide bombing kills 21 at Pakistan election rally
Pakistani volunteers carry an injured girl for medical treatment at a hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, on July 10, 2018.

A suicide bombing at an election rally killed at least 21 people, including a politician, in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, police said, amid concerns about security ahead of national polls later this month.

The attack targeted a campaign event organized in the city of Peshawar by the Awami National Party, which has been targeted by terrorists in the past over its vocal opposition to extremist groups like the Taliban.

The Pakistani Taliban on Wednesday claimed responsibility for the overnight suicide bombing at the rally, AP reported.

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.

The bombing came hours after the Pakistan military spokesman said there were security threats ahead of national elections scheduled for July 25.

This was the first major attack on a campaign event for Pakistan's July 25 general election.

Police chief Jameel said the number of casualties was high because the ANP event was taking place at a house in a narrow street.

An AFP reporter saw human remains, shoes, broken chairs, and caps littered at the scene.

Another party worker, Yaseen Khan, said a deafening explosion rocked the compound as Haroon Bilour shook hands with supporters.

Pakistan’s Election Commission has asked the military to help hold a "free and fair election" in the face of security threats.

More than 380,000 personnel will be deployed for the elections, according to Major General Asif Ghafoor, the military spokesman, AFP reported.

The ANP and its ally the Pakistan People’s Party were unable to campaign for the last general election in 2013 because of threats and attacks on their events and supporters by extremist groups like the Pakistani Taliban.

But ANP leaders have vowed to continue their campaign this year despite the bombing in Peshawar.

Pakistan has been fighting homegrown terrorism since 2004, when militants displaced by the US-led invasion of Afghanistan came to its border tribal areas.

These groups have often targeted political parties and leaders opposed to their views.

Pakistani militant organizations have claimed responsibility for attacks on several prominent political figures, including the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007.

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