An explosion has hit an campaign rally of a leading Islamist party in Pakistan, killing more than a dozen people. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the blast, which comes days ahead of a national election.
At least 14 people were killed on Monday and at least 50 others wounded when the bomb ripped through a rally for the Islamist Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) party held in the village of Sewak in Pakistan's northwest Kurram tribal region.
The news agency Reuters put the death toll considerably higher, citing local officials who reported that 25 people were killed and 65 injured.
Pakistan's Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying its target was a lawmaker elected as an independent but allied with the outgoing coalition government. The lawmaker in question reportedly escaped unhurt as did another party leader speaking at the event.
The incident was the latest in a series of attacks on politicians and political parties and election-related events in the run-up to the country's May 11 election. Saturday's vote will mark the first time a democratically elected administration has completed a full term in office and handed over power to another civilian government.
The majority of attacks have been carried against liberal and secular parties, with at least 83 people killed since April 11. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the majority of incidents, condemning the upcoming election as un-Islamic.
Monday's attack was unique, however, in that it targeted a party believed to have had a more favorable relationship with the group. The Jamiat-e-Ulema party is considered sympathetic to the Pakistani Taliban, as well as the Afghan Taliban's fight against NATO troops in Afghanistan. It is also seeking to establish a hard-line Islamic government in Pakistan
Pakistan's interim Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso strongly condemned Monday's attack. He called on local government officials to strengthen protection for politicians in Saturday's vote amid fears that increasing violence may prevent candidates from campaigning.
Pakistan was under military rule for more than half of its 66-year-history either due to coups or ruling behind the scenes.
ccp/pfd (AFP, AP, Reuters)