A massive suicide bombing of an election rally in southwestern Pakistan has killed at least 128 people, including a candidate for a provincial assembly seat, and injured more than 120 others in the lead-up to July 25 national elections.
The Islamic State's Amaq News Agency claimed that the group was responsible for carrying out the bombing.
Friday's deadly attack in the Balochistan province has fueled security concerns for heightened country-wide election-related activities ahead of the polls for the national assembly and four provincial legislatures.
Witnesses said that Siraj Raisani of the regional Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) was preparing to address hundreds of supporters in the Mastung district when the bomber near the stage detonated explosives strapped to his body.
Provincial Home Minister Umar Bangulzai confirmed to VOA that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber. The minister anticipated the death toll was expected to increase further.
The blast occurred just hours after a candidate for the national legislature, Akram Durrani, survived an assassination attempt during an election rally in his native northwestern city of Bannu.
Police and witnesses said Durrani was traveling in a convoy when a remote-controlled bomb planted in a parked motorcycle exploded near his vehicle.That attack killed four people and injured nearly 40 others but Durrani escaped unhurt.The politician is a central leader of a main religious party, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F (JUI-F).
The violence came three days after a suicide blast killed 21 people at an election rally in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhaw province, where Bannu is situated.
Haroon Bilour, a senior secular politician and candidate for a provincial assembly seat, was among those killed in Tuesday's bombing. More than 65 people also were wounded.
The outlawed Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the Peshawar attack, condemning Bilour and his predominantly secular Awami National Partyas "enemies of Islam."
The United States has strongly condemned the attacks on Pakistani political candidates and their supporters.
"These attacks are cowardly attempts to deprive the Pakistani people of their democratic rights," said State Department spokesperson, Heather Nauert.
"We grieve with those mourning the victims, and hope for a rapid recovery of those injured."
Source: Voice of America