An explosion targeting a political rally in the northwestern Pakistani city of Bannu has killed at least four people, police officials say, the second such attack this week, raising fears of violence ahead of a July 25 general election.
At least 19 people were wounded in the blast, which occurred just after the rally hosted by the JUI-F religious political party ended on Friday morning, said a police official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
In a statement, the official said the rally was in the Huwaid area, and the explosion occurred as people were dispersing after the rally. He also said it was an IED [Improvised Explosive Device] planted in a motorcycle and set off by remote control.
The rally was hosted by former provincial chief minister Akram Khan Durrani, a senior JUI-F leader who is running for a seat in Pakistan’s upcoming polls. Durrani was unharmed, police said.
The attack is the second major bombing to target a political rally this week.
On Tuesday, prominent politician Haroon Bilour was killed in a suicide attack at a Peshawar rally that claimed 20 lives and wounded 69 others
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.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for Friday’s bombing.
The attack 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.
Pakistan has been battling the TTP and its allies, who seek to impose a strict interpretation of Islamic law on the country, since 2007. In 2014, the military launched an operation that displaced the TTP’s fighters from their erstwhile headquarters of North Waziristan, causing a drop in violence.
Sporadic high-casualty attacks, however, have continued to target both civilian and security forces targets since then.