Monday, 23 July, 2018

Blast targeting election rally kills 128 in Pakistan

Men mourn the death of relatives and friends at hospital morgue in Quetta Men mourn the death of relatives and friends at hospital morgue in Quetta
Ellis Copeland | 14 July, 2018, 09:25

Peshawar/Karachi: At least 133 people, including a top nationalist leader, were killed and over 200 others injured on Friday in a powerful suicide blast and a targeted attack on separate election rallies in Pakistan, the deadliest in a series of assaults on candidates ahead of the 25 July polls.

The explosion killed Siraj Raisani, who was running for a provincial seat with the newly formed Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), provincial home minister Agha Umar Bungalzai told AFP.

Pakistan Army Chief of the Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa condemmed the attack that took place in Mastung and on Twitter said, "COAS condemns heinous terrorist attk in Mashtung".

Witnesses said that Siraj Raisani of the regional Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) was preparing to address hundreds of supporters in the Mastung district when the bomber near the stage detonated explosives strapped to his body.

"My brother Siraj Raisani has been martyred", said Haji Lashkari Raisani, another brother who is also contesting a national assembly seat from Baluchistan. Raisani is the brother of former Chief Minister of Balochistan Nawab Aslam Raisani.

Police and witnesses said Durrani was traveling in a convoy when a remote-controlled bomb planted in a parked motorcycle exploded near his vehicle.That attack killed four people and injured almost 40 others but Durrani escaped unhurt.The politician is a central leader of a main religious party, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F (JUI-F).

On July 10, a suicide bomb blast killed Awami National Party leader Haroon Bilour and 19 people in Peshawar's Yaktoot area.

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"Initially the death toll was not high but many critically injured persons including Siraj Raisani passed away in hospitals", Balochistan's caretaker health minister Faiz Kakar said. The proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan had claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.

"The suicide bomber blew himself up when local leaders were speaking at the gathering", said a survivor who had received injuries. Thousands flocked to his funeral the next day.

In February 2017, Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a shrine in southern Pakistan, killing 83 people and wounding over 150.

Following the attacks, activists called for Pakistani authorities to remain vigilant to protect candidates during the final days of the campaign season.

Senior politician Akram Khan Durrani, a candidate of the five-party religious alliance Muttehida Majlis Amal (MMA), was an apparent target of the attack but escaped unscathed, local broadcaster ARY News reported.

Election violence by the Islamist militants is common in Pakistan.

Analysts warn, however, that Pakistan has yet to tackle the root causes of extremism, and terrorists retain the ability to carry out attacks.

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