16 killed in Pakistan bomb blast
A bomb blast has killed at least 16 people at an election campaign rally held by a pro-Taliban party in north-west Pakistan.
Javed Khan, a government administrator in the Kurram tribal region where the bombing took place, said the attack also wounded 50 people. He said the bomb was apparently planted near the main stage of the rally.
Mr Khan said two party leaders escaped unhurt. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast.
The Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam party is considered to be supportive of the Afghan Taliban's fight against the United States and its allies. It is also sympathetic to the Pakistani Taliban.
The Taliban have in recent weeks attacked secular Pakistani parties. Elections are to be held on May 11.
One of the election candidates, Ainuddin Shakir, told a local television station that the blast went off just as the candidates were finishing their rally and leaving the stage. He said it appeared to have been detonated by remote control.
About 2,500 people had gathered at a local religious school to hear the candidates speak, said one man who was in the crowd, Sabir Gul. The massive explosion came just as one of the candidates ended his speech and was leaving the stage, he said.
Another resident, Mohammad Jamil, attended the meeting with his brother and was in the dining hall eating when the blast went off. "There was a deafening sound which stunned me for a while but I quickly moved out of the dining hall," he said, describing a 'hell-like' situation. "There were countless people bleeding and crying for help. My brother Khalil was among them."
Interim Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso condemned the bomb blast and called on the local government to strengthen protection for candidates in the upcoming election.
The historic vote, scheduled for this Saturday, will be the first time a democratically elected civilian government completes its term and hands over power to another. But the ongoing attacks against candidates, their supporters and political offices has cast a shadow over the momentous occasion, and may deter many people from going to the polls.