ANP leader Haroon Bilour among 20 killed in Peshawar blast
A suicide bomber blew himself up at an anti-Taliban political party’s rally in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, killing 20 people, including a candidate in July 25 elections, police said.
The attack on a meeting of the Awami National Party (ANP) in Peshawar also injured nearly 50 others, city police chief Jamil Qazi said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, the first major pre-election violence.
The blast took place when Haroon Bilour, who was contesting elections from PK-78 constituency, arrived at the site where the ANP workers had gathered for a corner meeting. Bilour suffered serious injuries and was shifted to the hospital where he succumbed to his wounds.
“According to our initial investigation, it was a suicide attack and Haroon Bilour… was the target,” AIG Shafqat Malik told AFP.
The rescue teams and law enforcement agencies reached the site of the blast. Police and bomb disposal officials collected evidence from the site of the blast and initiated an investigation into the incident.
The body of Haroon Bilour was later shifted to Bilour House where ANP workers gathered in great numbers to pay respect to their deceased leader. ANP Iftikhar Hussain said that the funeral prayers of Haroon Bilour will be offered on Wednesday 5pm at Wazir Bagh in Peshawar.
Haroon Bilour was the son of senior ANP leader Bashir Ahmed Bilour who was killed when a Pakistani Taliban bomber blew himself up in a party meeting in Peshawar in 2012.
The following year in 2013, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had claimed responsibility for an attack at an ANP rally in Peshawar, in which 15 people were killed. The TTP spokesperson at the time, Ehsanullah Ehsan, had told journalists that Haroon was the target, but “unfortunately Ghulam Ahmed Bilour got injured”.
The ANP, which governed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province from 2008 to 2013, has been a continual target of militant groups operating in the northwest. The militants killed hundreds of ANP leaders and supporters in attacks around the 2013 election.
Earlier this month, seven people including a candidate of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal were injured in an explosion during an election rally near Takhtikhel canal.
The Taliban have time and again threatened to target secular parties for what they call supporting the military action in tribal areas and the “war on terror”.
Although there has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, the city of Peshawar has for decades been a victim of militancy due to its status as a frontline for the ongoing war against terrorism as well as its proximity to the restless tribal areas and the Pak-Afghan border.
The Natio¬nal Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) on Monday had revealed the names of six personalities, including Imran Khan and Hafiz Saeed’s son, who could be targeted by terrorists during the ongoing election campaign.
“Six people include Pak¬istan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan, Awami National Party leaders Asfandyar Wali and Ameer Haider Hoti, Qaumi Watan Party head Aftab Sherpao, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl leader Akram Khan Dur¬rani and Hafiz Saeed’s son Talha Saeed. Moreover, there are threats to senior leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz,” Nacta director Obaid Farooq said while briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Interior.
He said Nacta had forwarded 12 threat alerts to the federal interior and provincial home ministries as well as law enforcement agencies.