A bomb planted by the Taliban killed several people at a political rally in Pakistan’s tribal belt on Monday. At least 20 people were killed while 45 more were wounded in the massive blast.
The incident was also the deadliest attack so far in the lead up to next Saturday’s national election. The attack happened in the Kurram tribal region at a rally to hear Munir Khan Orakzai, a former member of Parliament.
The attack was unusual because Orakzai was a candidate for the religious party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, known for its close links to the Taliban.
The bombing happened just as the politician finished his speech and was stepping off the stage. He was not injured in the blast, which caused widespread devastation. One witness reported hearing dozens of people crying for help in a “hell-like” situation.
A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack, explaining that Orakzai was targeted for betraying Arab jihadists who were detained by the Pakistani Army. Those men later ended up in the custody of Americans. They added, “We attacked Munir Orakzai because of the crimes he committed against Islam and Mujahideen.”
Javed Khan, a government administrator in the region, explained that the bomb was planted near the main stage of the rally. But two party leaders were able to escape unhurt. Along with being supportive of the Afghan Taliban’s fight against the United States and its allies, the Jamiat-e-Ulema party is also sympathetic to the Pakistani Taliban.
In recent weeks, the Taliban have focused their attacks on secular Pakistani parties, making the bombing on the Islamic party strange. Elections are slated to be held next Saturday amid tight security. A string of militant attacks in the region have left dozens of people dead.
That Taliban bombing in Pakistan on Monday also coincides with the ramp up of the Islamic militants’ Spring Offensive, aimed at injuring and killing as many US troops and their allies as possible. Attacks have included Afghan police.