Suicide attack at election rally in Pakistan kills 20

February 10th, 2008 - 1:24 am ICT by admin  

Islamabad, Feb 9 (DPA) At least 20 people were killed and more than 40 injured Saturday in a suicide bombing at an election rally in northwest Pakistan, as the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff held high-level security talks in the country, officials said.

The suicide bomber blew himself up when around 200 workers of the nationalist Awami National Party (ANP) gathered at a compound in a small village of Charsadda district.

“According to the information we have received so far, 20 people have died in the bombing,” said Kamal Shah, the health minister of North-West Frontier Province.

Provincial Chief Minister Shamsul Mulk said it was a “suicide blast”.

“It was an action by the ill-wishers of Pakistan who do not want the elections to take place,” he told the DawnNews channel.

More than 40 people, including 10 children and an ANP candidate for provincial assembly, were injured in the explosion. Eleven of them were said to be in a critical condition.

Pakistan has recently seen a surge in suicide attacks that killed around 700 people in 2007.

More than 50 people were killed in Charsadda in December when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque where former interior minister Aftab Sherpao was offering prayers. The leader survived the bombing.

Few weeks later another attacker killed former prime minister Benazir Bhutto firing gunshots at her at a public rally in the garrison city of Rawlapindi before detonating a bomb.

Authorities blame pro-Taliban militants from the country’s tribal belt near Afghanistan. The region is believed to be a safe haven for Al Qaeda terrorists and Taliban fighters who fled to the area after the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

Saturday’s bombing came as the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, discussed the security situation with President Pervez Musharraf, the country’s army chief Pervez Kiyani and other security officials.

He said the terrorism threat was rising and vowed to fight it out in close cooperation with Pakistan.

“Look at the number of attacks, especially the suicide attacks. Threat is going up. We both are concerned about it. The threat is not going away, it’s a mutual threat,” he said.

Mullen distanced himself from statements by some US officials that US forces could undertake military action inside Pakistan to address the problem of rising militancy there.

“Pakistan is a sovereign country and we will assist Pakistan when asked for it,” he said, adding that the US was providing training facilities to the country’s soldiers to eliminate the “common enemy”.

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