A bomb tore through a Pakistan political rally on Monday, killing 14 people and wounding 56 in one of the deadliest attacks of the campaign for Pakistan’s historic elections on Saturday.
The killings bring to 83 the number of people killed in such attacks since April 11, according to an AFP tally.
The device targeted 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, said.
“I fear the death toll could rise further because several of the injured are in a critical condition,” he added.
A hospital doctor earlier confirmed four dead.
Khan said the bomb was planted inside the building that was the venue for the rally of two national assembly candidates representing the JUI faction led by cleric Fazul-ur-Rehman.
One of the candidates, Munir Orakzai, escaped unhurt while the other, Ain u Din Shakir, was slightly injured, Khan said.
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.
Pakistan’s 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.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest blast. The tribal belt is a stronghold of Islamist militants and Kurram has been dogged by sectarian violence between Pakistan’s Sunni Muslim majority and Shiite minority.
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.
But Rehman and his JUI faction have been a mediator between the authorities and the insurgent group. The Taliban have been blamed for killing thousands of Pakistanis in a domestic insurgency over the last six years.
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.