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Bomb at Islamist party rally in Pakistan kills 14

by HUSSAIN AFZAL Associated Press on May 06, 2013 10:00 AM

PARACHINAR, Pakistan — A bomb ripped through a campaign rally of a leading Islamist party in Pakistan today, killing 14 people and wounding dozens more, a government official said as the run-up to the country’s Saturday election becomes increasingly dangerous.

The blast at the rally held in the northwest Kurram tribal region by the Jamiat-e-Ulema party is the latest incident of violence targeting candidates, political offices and election-related events as the vote approaches. Much of the violence is believed to have been carried out by the Taliban against liberal and secular parties, but today’s blast was unique in that it targeted a party believed to have a more favorable relationship with the militant group.

The bomb, which was apparently planted near the main stage of the rally, killed 14 and wounded 50 people, said Javed Khan, a government administrator in the Kurram tribal region.

Two party leaders who were speaking at the event escaped unhurt, Khan said.

One of the candidates, Ainuddin Shakir, told a local television station that the blast went off just as the candidates were finishing their rally and leaving the stage. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast.

The Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam party is considered supportive of the Afghan Taliban’s fight against the United States and its allies. It’s also sympathetic to the Pakistani Taliban, which have been fighting Pakistani troops and would like to establish a hard-line Islamic government in Pakistan. The group’s leaders have generally opposed the Pakistani military’s operations against militants in the tribal region and instead called for negotiating with the militants.

The Taliban have in recent weeks attacked secular Pakistani parties that have in general supported military intervention against the militants in the tribal regions.

Saturday’s historic election in Pakistan will mark the first time that a democratically elected civilian government will complete its term and hand over power to another.

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