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Top secular leader among 20 killed in suicide blast at election rally in Pak

Press Trust of India  |  Peshawar 

A of the (ANP) and 19 others were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up in an election rally in Pakistan's northwestern city, the second terrorist attack on a political rally ahead of the July 25

The powerful blast, which also injured 66 people, took place shortly before midnight last night when Haroon Bilour, who was contesting elections from PK-78 constituency in city, along with other party workers had gathered for a corner meeting in the congested Yakatoot area.

The blast occurred near Bilour's vehicle.

Bilour was the son of the late Bashir Bilour, who was also killed in a similar suicide attack when a bomber blew himself up at a party meet in in 2012.

The death toll was initially reported at 13 but it rose to 20 overnight, Lady Reading Hospital's said.

The attack was claimed by banned Tehrik-e-(TTP).

Mohammad Khurasani, a for the TTP, identified the suicide bomber as Karim, who targeted leader Bilour.

Bilour had suffered in the blast and was shifted to the hospital where he succumbed to his

"I t was the revenge of killing and imprisonment of scores of Mujahidden (militants) during ANP regime," Khurasani said, adding that the secular would remain on target list of TTP.

Bomb disposal squad said eight kg explosive was used in the blast.

Bilour was laid to rest today in Syed after thousands of people, including ANP leaders and activists, attended his funeral at Wazir Bagh in Peshawar. A three-layer security plan had been derived for the funeral procession.

said the has constituted a five-member Joint Investigation Team led by deputy general of the to probe into the incident and submit its report within a week.

Pakistan's Election Commissioner (CEC) strongly condemned the attack. "This shows the weakness of our security institutions and a conspiracy against transparent elections," he said.

The has postponed the polls in PK-78 constituency. The new schedule will be announced later.

The ANP is a mainstream national party headed by Asfandyar Wali Khan, the grandson of commonly referred to as Bacha Khan among the Pushtuns.

Wali said that the party would observe three days of peaceful mourning, adding that the ANP would participate in the polls, come what may.

"It will not be a good sign for the country if party workers shun the policy of patience," he said.

The Bar Council has also announced a three-day mourning in light of the attack, with lawyers beginning the boycott of court proceedings today.

Tehreek-e-Insaaf and Peoples Party have suspended their political activities in for a day to express solidarity with the Bilour family.

expressed his grief and at the death of Bilour and others in the blast.

"We are fighting against nexus of inimical forces which aren't willing to absorb a peaceful and We remain undeterred and shall defeat them," he said.

This was the second terrorist attack on an election rally in Pakistan ahead of the

Earlier this month, seven people including a candidate of the were injured in an explosion during an election rally near Takhtikhel also in the province.

The ANP, which governed the province from 2008 to 2013, has been targeted by the TTP for carrying out operations against militant outfits in the troubled northwestern region of Pakistan and being secular in its ideology.

The militants killed hundreds of ANP leaders and supporters in attacks around the 2013 election.

The (Nacta) on Monday had told a standing committee that some leading political leaders faced death threats from militant outfits ahead of the July 25 in Pakistan.

The leaders include Pakistan Imran Khan, the son of attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed, Asfandayar Wali Khan, and senior leadership of other parties.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, July 11 2018. 20:00 IST