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'Unfazed' by attack, ANP vows to continue election campaign

12 July 2018
'Unfazed' by attack, ANP vows to continue election campaign

Bilour, 47, belonged to a prominent political family from Peshawar, the capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

At least 12 persons including Awami National Party (ANP) leader Haroon Bilour were killed in a suspected suicide blast which targeted an election gathering of ANP in Yakatoot area of Peshawar on Tuesday night, a senior police official said.

The son of Bashir Ahmed Bilour, a senior ANP figure who, himself, was martyred in a suicide blast back in 2012, Haroon was rushed to the hospital in a critical condition but succumbed to his wounds shortly after.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the Tuesday attack. Live TV footage showed volunteers and police rushing the wounded to hospital. The following year, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for an attack at the party's rally in the city, that killed 15 people.

This was the first major attack on a campaign event for Pakistan's July 25 general election.

Bomb disposal squad chief Shafqat Malik said eight kilos of TNT explosive was used in the blast.

Rescue teams and law enforcement agencies have reached the site of the blast and investigations into the attack are underway.

Political parties and the government in Pakistan have condemned the attack, with caretaker prime minister Nasirul Mulk ordering authorities to step up security ahead of the general election on 25 July. Peshawar is considered as a gateway to Pakistan's troubled tribal regions, from where many terror groups including al Qaeda are allegedly operated.

The attack came after the army said it would deploy more than 370,000 soldiers to polling stations - over five times more than the number deployed for the last election in 2013.

Major General Asif Ghafoor, an army spokesman, said 371,388 troops - almost a third of the total armed forces - would be deployed to provide security for the upcoming vote. Officials have said that while the threat remains, terrorists have been significantly weakened because of military operations in recent years. The Pakistan Muslim League (N) leads most opinion polls, with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in second, followed by the Pakistan Peoples Party.