Peshawar - A suicide bomber killed an Awami National Party leader and 13 of his supporters at an election rally in Peshawar’s Yakatoot neighbourhood, police said on Tuesday.

A foreign news agency cited a police officer, Iqbal Khan, as saying that the bomber struck a Tuesday night rally for ANP candidate Haroon Ahmed Bilour. Reportedly, 65 people were wounded in the attack.

Earlier, Bilour’s 16-year-old son was reported to have been injured in the blast. However, he told a private news channel that he was at home at the time of the incident.

The state-run APP news agency cited Peshawar Chief Capital City Police (CCPO) Qazi Jamil as saying the blast claimed life of Haroon Bilour. Talking to the media, the CCPO said it was a suicide attack and Haroon Bilour was the target. He said around eight kilograms of explosive material was used in the attack.

The ANP governed Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province from 2008 to 2013. The military waged a major offensive against militants in the Swat Valley in 2009. Extremists killed hundreds of ANP leaders and supporters in attacks around the 2013 election.

Haroon Bilour’s father, Bashir Ahmed Bilour, was killed by a suicide bomber during a meeting in 2012 ahead of the election in Qissa Khawani Bazaar of Peshawar. The outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan had claimed responsibility for the attack.

An army spokesperson said on Tuesday the military will deploy more than 371,000 security forces to polling stations to ensure free, fair and transparent national elections on July 25.

According to the reports, the blast took place when Haroon reached the site for the public meeting in Yakatoot area of KP capital. He suffered serious injuries and was shifted to hospital where he succumbed to his wounds. His body was later shifted to Bilour House where ANP workers gathered in great numbers to pay respect to their deceased leader.

Police, security forces and rescue teams rushed to the site and transported the injured to hospital. Hospital officials feared the death toll might rise as several of the injured were in critical condition. Emergency was declared in all the hospitals of the city. No group has claimed responsibility of the attack.

People took to the social media to show solidarity with the victims of terrorism soon after the tragic news broke. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan strongly condemned the attack, saying:  “All political parties and their candidates must be provided security during their election campaigns”.

Mosharraf Zaidi, head of Alif Ailaan, flayed the attack, saying “The horror continues for the Bilour family”.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sardar Muhammad Raza denounced the attack, saying: “This shows weakness of our security institutions and a conspiracy against transparent elections.”

Terming it the ‘peak of terrorism’, ANP leader Mian Iftikhar Hussain said the attack is aimed at derailing democratic system in the country and a conspiracy to delay upcoming general elections. The United States also condemned the attack and showed sympathy with the bereaved families.

 

 

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