PESHAWAR: Two children, a journalist and six police officials among 16 people killed and dozens others including women and children were injured in a blast at a political rally of Awami National Party (ANP) in Peshawar on Wednesday, DawnNews reported.
The bomb blast took place in Yakatoot, a congested neighbourhood of Peshawar, just after the arrival of senior ANP leader Ghulam Ahmed Bilour.
It was the fourth deadly attack on politicians or political parties in three days as the country prepares to hold historic polls on May 11.
Senior ANP leader and former federal minister for Railways, Ghulam Ahmed Bilour escaped the Peshawar bombing with only minor bruises. He was shown on television footage with blood splatters on his shirt after the attack.
The deceased journalist is identified as Tariq Aslam while Azhar Ali Shah and Ahtisham Khan are two other journalists who sustained injuries in the blast.
Police said it was a suicide attack. “It was a suicide bombing,” senior police official Shafqat Malik told AFP.
Up to six kilograms of explosives along with splinters and ball bearings were used in the bombing. “We have found the feet of the bomber,” Malik added.
The AIG bomb disposal squad and spokesman Lady Reading Hospital Jamil Khan have confirmed the death toll to Dawn.Com. Chief Executive of the hospital Dr Arshad Javed Khan has said that 60 injured are being treated and around ten among them are in critical condition.
Live television footage showed vehicles burning and people rescuing the wounded in a cloud of smoke.
Meanwhile, outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility of the blast. Speaking to Dawn.Com over telephone from an undisclosed location, TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said the target was Bashir Bilour's son Haroon Bilour.
Bashir Bilour, Ghulam Ahmed Bilour's brother, was also killed in a bombing carried out by the Taliban militants.
Tuesday's blast follows a series of terrorist attacks against leaders of the Awami National Party (ANP). On Sunday, local ANP leader Mukaram Shah was killed in a blast also claimed by the TTP.
The Pakistani Taliban have vowed to carry out attacks against secular political parties in the outgoing coalition government, including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Pakistan People's Party (PPP), and the ANP.
ANP’s official spokesman Senator Zahid Khan, while talking exclusively to DawnNews, has blamed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the interim government for not being able to prevent such terrorist attacks.
The party on Monday had warned to take legal action against the Election Commission for its decision of decreasing security protocol of its leaders.
Khan, however, vowed to continue with their ongoing elections campaign in the run up to May 11 polls. He said the party will fail all efforts of the miscreants to delay the election process.
Meanwhile, Caretaker Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Justice (retd) Tariq Pervez Khan has called an All Parties Conference (APC) to discuss the prevailing law and order situation in the country, particularly in KP.
All parties are invited to attend the Peshawar moot on Wednesday at 4 pm.
Zahir Shah Sherazi contributed to reporting from Peshawar