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Suicide Bombing at Election Rally Kills at Least 20 in Northwestern Pakistan

  • VOA News

A suicide blast at an election rally in northwestern Pakistan has killed at least 20 people and wounded more than 25 others.

Pakistan's Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz says a suicide attacker struck an Awami National Party rally in the town of Charsadda in North West Frontier Province on Saturday). The party is a secular group made up of ethnic Pashtuns.

Nawaz says the bomb was detonated close to the stage inside a hall, as party leader and human rights activist Afrasiab Khattak was addressing the crowd. Khattak later told a Pakistani television network ,Dawn Television he escaped unhurt. At least two security personnel were among the dead.

In December of last year, a suicide bombing targeting former interior minister Aftab Sherpao at a mosque in Charsadda killed more than 50 people.

Saturday's blast comes as Pakistani political parties campaign ahead of the country's parliamentary elections set for February 18th. The elections were postponed after unrest following former Prime Minister's Benazir Bhutto's assassination in December.

Elsewhere, Ms. Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, vowed to uphold his slain wife's mission. He spoke during an election rally in the southeastern town of Thatta today in Sindh province. Zardari addressed thousands of supporters of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) in the party's first rally since Ms. Bhutto's assassination.

He said he has a responsibility to save Pakistan and he vowed to fight for democracy by participating in the upcoming poll, despite threats of vote-rigging by Pakistan's ruling government.

Ms. Bhutto was killed in the city of Rawalpindi as she was leaving an election rally. British investigators from Scotland Yard released their report Friday, saying she died from an injury caused by the force of a suicide bomb blast, not an assassin's bullet. Ms. Bhutto's supporters have rejected the findings and are calling for a separate United Nations investigation.

Separately on Saturday, police clashed with hundreds of lawyers in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. The demonstrators were trying to reach the home of deposed Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who was fired by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf last November during a state of emergency. Chaudhry remains under house arrest.

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