At least 64 to 70 people, including a top nationalist leader, were killed and more than 180 others injured on Friday as powerful bomb blasts targeted two separate election rallies in Pakistan, the deadliest in a string of attacks on candidates ahead of the July 25 polls.
Militants targeted a gathering of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) leader Siraj Raisani in Mastung area of Balochistan province. In the southwest town of Dringarh, about 35km south of the Balochistan provincial capital Quetta, a suicide attacker targeted a rally on Friday, killing at least 21 people, said provincial home minister Agha Umar Bangulzai.
“They targeted a rally of the Balochistan Awami Party,” said Bangulzai.
The party’s candidate Siraj Raisani was among those killed in the attack, his borther Lashkari Raisani said to Media by phone.
According to Bangulzai, at least 30 more were wounded in that attack.
“Security has been increased in the whole province, he said. “We do not want a repeat of this, all the candidates will be advised and given further security.”
Raisani is running for election to the provincial assembly in his home district of Mastung, where the attack took place. The area has been the site of several attacks by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) armed group, although those have mostly targeted Shia Muslim pilgrims bound for Iran.
Explosion in Bannu
Earlier on Friday, another explosion targeted an election rally in the northwest town of Bannu, police said, killing at least four people, and wounding 19 others.
The blast occurred just after a rally hosted by the JUI-F religious political party ended on Friday morning, said a police official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The rally was in the Huwaid area, and the explosion occurred as people were dispersing after the rally,” said the official. “It was an IED [Improvised Explosive Device] planted in a motorcycle and set off by remote control.”
That attack was claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which also claimed an attack that killed Bilour’s father, a staunch opponent of the armed group, in 2012.
Friday’s attacks has stoked fears of a return to the pre-poll violence that saw more than 158 people killed in the six weeks leading to the last election in 2013, according to data from the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies research organisation.
Sporadic high-casualty attacks, however, have continued to target both civilian and security forces targets since then.