At least 15 people were killed and nearly 70 injured when a powerful bomb ripped through a political rally in central Pakistan, in one of the deadliest attacks ahead of the landmark May 11 general elections.
Assistant political agent of central Kurram region, Mohammad Fazal said at least 15 people had died in the incident in the rally called by the right-wing Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl in Kurram tribal region. According to reports, nearly 70 people were injured.
The explosion occurred when a planted device detonated inside the madarasa where the rally was taking place, political agent Riaz Masood said.
The rally of JUI-F's Munir Khan Orakzai, a former lawmaker from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas who is contesting the upcoming elections, was taking place when the explosion occurred, The Dawn reported. Qadeer Orakzai, the brother of Munir, said that the leader was getting off the stage when the blast occurred and that he had suffered minor injuries. Sources said that another JUI-F candidate Ainuddin Shakir, was also injured in the blast, the report said.
Emergency and rescue forces reached the spot and shifted the victims to nearby hospitals. Security forces cordoned off the area as a probe into the incident went underway. It was the first deadly attack on a political party in Pakistan's tribal belt since campaigning began for Pakistan's polls, which mark a historic democratic transition in a country ruled by the military for half its life.
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso strongly condemned the attack‚ saying that such acts cannot shake the resolve of the nation against terrorism. JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman also condemned the killing of innocent people. Orakzai had recently joined the JUI-F.
No organisation has immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
A JUI-F spokesman told the media that around 3,000 people, including tribal elders were at the meeting at the time of the blast.
Violence has risen sharply before the vote with more than 60 people killed in direct attacks on politicians and political parties since April 11.
Image: Map of Pakistan locating the Kurram region where a blast killed 15 people at an election rally on Monday. | Graphic: Reuters