Islamabad: At least 20 people, including an Awami National Party (ANP) candidate, were killed in a suicide attack on an election rally in Pakistan's Peshawar city. The Taliban claimed the bombing on Wednesday, calling it "the beginning of revenge".
ANP candidate Haroom Bilour, who was due to contest the July 25 general election, was targeted for his party's "anti-Islam policies", said Pakistani Taliban (TPP) spokesman Mohammad Khurasani in a statement following the Tuesday night attack.
The ANP is a secular and leftist party that represents the Pashtuns, who form a large part of the population in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where it is part of the opposition after being in power from 2008 to 2013.
Bilour's father, former provincial minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour, was also killed in a suicide attack by the terror group in 2012.
Khurasani said that the "successful bombing (in Peshawar) was the beginning of revenge" and that the left-wing ANP organisation "will remain on the target list until they repent and return to the folds of Islam".
Bilour was standing from Peshawar's PK-78 constituency. The poll body postponed the election for the constituency due to the tragedy, Dawn online reported.
"When this secular party was in power it martyred so many Muslims and imprisoned so many others. We have announced a war against them," he said.
The Taliban spokesman urged people to stay away from ANP members, their offices and meetings and that anyone who ignored the militant group's message, "will be responsible for your own losses".
Another 63 people were injured in the bombing, said Zulfikar Ali, the spokesman for Peshawar's Lady Reading Hospital. The explosion occurred moments after Bilour arrived at the venue, near the stage, to address supporters at the meeting as welcoming party members and admirers engaged in a display of fireworks, which the bomber made use of as his cover.
Nearly eight kilos of explosives were used in the blast, said a police official.
It is the first attack with fatalities in the campaign for this month's polls in which some 105 million people are eligible to vote.
Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retired) Sardar Mohammad Raza Khan condemned the attack and termed it a "weakness of security institutions".
The attack was a conspiracy against the transparent elections, the official said, noting that the provincial governments were ordered to provide fool-proof security to all candidates.
ANP leader Mian Iftikhar Hussain said the government had failed to provide security to the party. "Perhaps someone wishes to sabotage the elections... wants to push ANP out of the electoral race," he said.
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