Suicide bomber kills 12 at anti-Taliban party rally in Pakistan

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A suicide bomber blew himself up at an anti-Taliban political party’s rally in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, killing 12 people, including a candidate in July 25 elections, police said.

The attack on a meeting of the Awami National Party (ANP) in Peshawar also injured nearly 50 others, city police chief Jamil Qazi said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, the first major pre-election violence. Live TV footage showed volunteers and police rushing the wounded to hospital.

The ANP was the main target of Taliban attacks in the 2013 election. Then, senior ANP leader Bashir Bilour was killed in a suicide bombing. Tuesday’s attack killed his son Haroon Bilour, a candidate for the provincial assembly.

Peshawar city sits on the edge of a region bordering Afghanistan that has long been home to Islamist militants.

The Pakistani Taliban, a loosely aligned umbrella group of several militant and sectarian bands, have been waging a war against the Pakistani state for over a decade, killing tens of thousands of people.

They want nuclear-armed Pakistan to be a state run under their harsh interpretation of Islamic law.

The violence has decreased in recent months after several military offensives against their strongholds in the region. But many militants have escaped to neighboring Afghanistan, from where Islamabad alleges they launch attacks inside Pakistan.

Last month, a US drone strike killed the Pakistani Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah, who had claimed responsibility for most of the attacks against the ANP in the 2013 election on the grounds that it had supported military operations against the militants.

The army announced on Tuesday it would deploy over 371,000 troops to ensure peaceful and fair and free elections on July 25.

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