ANP leader among three others killed in Peshawar blast

Pakistani relative mourn the death of their family member at a hospital in Peshawar

Pakistani relative mourn the death of their family member at a hospital in Peshawar Credit Muhammad Sajjad AP

At least 12 persons including Awami National Party (ANP) leader Haroon Bilour were killed in a suspected suicide blast which targeted an election gathering of ANP in Yakatoot area of Peshawar on Tuesday night, a senior police official said.

A police officer in plain clothes collects evidence from the site after a suicide attack during an election campaign meeting in Peshawar, Pakistan July 10, 2018.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday's attack.

The blast occurred as Bilour arrived at the stage to address supporters in Yaka Toot area.

ANP senior leader Mian Iftikhar Hussain said the attack was meant to derail democracy and delay the elections scheduled for July 25.

"The attack killed at least 13 people, including (Haroon) Bilour", Peshawar city police chief Qazi Jameel told AFP.

It is pertinent to note here that Bilour's father, Bashir Ahmed Bilour, too had lost his life in a 2012 suicide bomb explosion in the city's Qissa Khwani bazar.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sardar Muhammad Raza strongly condemned the attack, reports said. Islamic extremists killed hundreds of ANP leaders and supporters in attacks around the 2013 election. "The last thing I saw was a big ball of fire". "We were waiting at the venue when we heard an explosion as soon as Bilour's vehicle approached the gate", he said.

Following the incident, the Election Commission of Pakistan postponed the polls in PK-78 constituency.

More than 380,000 personnel will be deployed for the elections, according to Major General Asif Ghafoor, the military spokesman. But ANP leaders have vowed to continue their campaign this year despite the bombing in Peshawar.

The ANP is a predominantly secular, ethnic Pashtun nationalist party, which has long competed with Islamist parties for votes in Pakistan's volatile Pashtun lands, along the border with Afghanistan.

On July 9, the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) had briefed the Senate Committee on Interior about threats to the leaders of the political parties especially those of ANP. Officials have said that while the threat remains, militants have been significantly weakened because of military operations in recent years.

Pakistani terror organisations have claimed responsibility for attacks on several prominent political figures, including the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007.

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