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Officials: Pakistan election rally death toll climbs to 23

Published: Updated:

The death toll in an election rally bombing by Taliban militants in a northwestern Pakistani tribal district climbed to 23 on Tuesday, officials said, the deadliest attack yet on the poll campaign.

The bomb hit a gathering of the right-wing Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), a religious party in the outgoing government coalition in Kurram, part of Pakistan's Taliban-infested tribal belt on the Afghan border.

The blast took to 92 the number of people killed in attacks on politicians and political parties since April 11, according to an AFP tally.

“The death toll has risen to 23 after a fresh count this morning,” Riaz Khan, the top administrative official in Kurram, told AFP.

Doctor Inayat Khan from the main hospital in Kurram tribal district confirmed the death toll and said 67 wounded were brought to hospital.

Khan said six critically wounded had been shifted to the northwestern garrison town of Kohat and the provincial capital Peshawar.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the target had been Munir Orakzai, a lawmaker elected as an independent but allied to the outgoing government.

It was the first attack on a political party in the tribal belt since campaigning began for what will be Pakistan's first democratic transition of power after a civilian government has completed a full term in office.

The Pakistani Taliban have condemned Saturday's elections as un-Islamic and directly threatened the main parties in the outgoing coalition, the Pakistan People's Party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Awami National Party (ANP).

The cleric Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman and his JUI party -- known as JUI-F -- have been mediators between the authorities and the Taliban, blamed for killing thousands of Pakistanis in a domestic insurgency over the past six years.

Orakzai is a senior tribal politician who is standing for JUI-F for the first time. The Taliban denied that JUI-F itself was the target.

Elections have been postponed in three constituencies where candidates have been killed. Those constituencies are in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, in Pakistan's biggest city of Karachi and in southern Hyderabad.