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Pakistani Taliban kill 21 with suicide bomb attack on political rally

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THE Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility today for a suicide bombing at a campaign rally on Tuesday night that killed a secular politician and 20 others, two weeks before the country’s nationwide elections.

Mohammad Khurasani, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, confirmed the militant group targeted a rally of the Awami National Party in the north-western city of Peshawar.

The bombing killed Haroon Ahmed Bilour, a candidate for a seat in the provincial legislature. Another 65 people were wounded.

The Awami National Party ruled the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, of which Peshawar is the capital, from 2008 to 2013, during which the military waged a major offensive against militants in the province’s Swat Valley.

The militants responded by carrying out a wave of attacks before the 2013 elections, killing hundreds of party supporters. Mr Bilour’s father was killed by a suicide bomber in 2012.

Thousands attended the funeral prayers for Mr Bilour at a Peshawar park this afternoon, including supporters, political leaders and ordinary citizens. Some held banners criticising the government for failing to provide adequate security.

The Pakistani Taliban said the attack was in revenge for the party’s rule and vowed more such attacks, calling on people to stay away from its rallies.

The attack was condemned by political parties and the government. Caretaker Prime Minister Nasir-ul-Mulk has ordered authorities to ensure peace during the July 25 vote.

The army said on Tuesday it would deploy more than 370,000 troops to polling stations, more than five times the number of troops deployed during the 2013 elections, when the security situation was much worse.

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