Taliban bomb kills 14 at Pakistan election rally
A bomb tore through a Pakistan political rally Monday, killing 14 people and wounding 56 in one of the deadliest attacks on the campaign for Pakistan's historic elections on Saturday.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility, saying its target had been a lawmaker elected as an independent but allied to the outgoing government. Officials said the lawmaker escaped unhurt.
The killings bring to 83 the number of people killed in attacks on politicians and political parties since April 11, according to an AFP tally.
The device hit a rally by the right-wing Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), a religious party in the outgoing government coalition. It exploded in Kurram, part of Pakistan's Taliban-infested tribal belt on the Afghan border.
"At least 14 people have been confirmed dead and 56 injured," Riaz Khan, the top administrative official in Kurram, told AFP.
"I fear the death toll could rise further because several of the injured are in a critical condition," he added.
Khan said the bomb was planted at a rally by two national assembly candidates representing the JUI faction led by cleric Fazul-ur-Rehman.
The apparent target, Munir Orakzai, escaped unhurt while Khan said the other, Ain u Din Shakir, was slightly injured.
It was the first deadly attack on a political party in the tribal belt since campaigning began for what will be the country's first democratic transition of power after a civilian government has completed a full term in office.
Interim Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso strongly condemned the attack and said another national assembly candidate had been injured.
Repeated calls for candidates to be granted more security have failed to stop a wave of attacks, most of them claimed by the Pakistani Taliban.
"Basically it was an attack on Munir Orakzai, who was a part of the past government for five years," Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.
The Pakistani Taliban have condemned the elections as unIslamic and directly threatened the main parties in the outgoing coalition, the Pakistan People's Party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Awami National Party (ANP).
"He supported the People's Party and ANP government which launched several operations against us," Ehsan told AFP.
Rehman and his JUI faction -- known as JUI-F -- have been a mediator between the authorities and the Taliban, blamed for killing thousands of Pakistanis in a domestic insurgency over the last six years.
Orakzai is a senior tribal politician who is standing for JUI-F for the first time. The Taliban denied that JUI-F itself was the target.
Elections have been postponed in three constituencies, in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, in Pakistan's biggest city of Karachi and in the southern city of Hyderabad, where candidates have been killed.