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Suicide bombing kills 21 people, including politician, ahead of Pakistan election

At least 21 people – including a secular Pakistani politician – have been killed after a suicide bombing at an election rally.

The Pakistani Taliban said it was behind the attack, which targeted the Awami National Party (ANP) rally in the city of Peshawar.

Haroon Ahmed Bilour, who was standing for election in the provincial legislature, was among those died in the explosion.

The candidate’s father, Bashir Ahmed Bilour, was also killed by a suicide bomber in 2012.

Haroon Ahmed Bilour (R) was killed in the blast
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Haroon Ahmed Bilour (R) was killed in the blast

The ANP faced hostility from Islamic extremists when the party ruled the capital of Peshawar – the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province – from 2008 to 2013.

The military launched a major offensive against militants in the Swat Valley during that period. Militants responded with a wave of attacks ahead of elections in 2013, killing hundreds of the party’s supporters.

The Pakistani Taliban said Tuesday’s bombing was an act of revenge for ANP rule. It has urged people to stay away from ANP rallies, and is vowing to carry out further attacks.

The Pakistani Taliban has vowed to carry out more attacks
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Mr Bilour’s 16-year-old son has called for calm

Mr Bilour’s 16-year-old son Daniyal – among the 65 people wounded in the attack – called for calm after the bombing.

“I am also ready to sacrifice my life for your rights, but I request you to exercise restraint,” he told supporters ahead of his father’s funeral on Wednesday.

Political parties and the government in Pakistan have condemned the attack, with caretaker prime minister Nasirul Mulk ordering authorities to step up security ahead of the general election on 25 July.

The attack saw 65 people wounded in Peshawar
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The attack saw 65 people wounded in Peshawar

The attack came after the army said it would deploy more than 370,000 soldiers to polling stations – over five times more than the number deployed for the last election in 2013.

Running in the upcoming election is former cricketer Imran Khan, 65, who leads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party. He will be hoping the country will break from two political dynasties that have dominated national politics.

Also running is Shehbaz Sharif, 66, of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League. He is from one of those prominent political families and is the younger brother of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

The other candidate running is Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 29, of the Pakistan Peoples Party. He is the eldest child of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

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