Suicide attack kills nine at Pakistan election rally

A suicide bomber killed nine people and wounded dozens more at a Pakistan election campaign rally attended by a former cabinet minister in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Tuesday, officials said.

Pakistan's umbrella Taliban faction claimed responsibility for what was the fourth deadly attack on politicians or political parties in three days as the country prepares to hold historic polls on May 11.

Senior Awami National Party (ANP) leader Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, who served as railways minister in the outgoing government, escaped the Peshawar bombing with cuts and bruises. He was shown on television footage with blood splattered on his trousers after the attack.

"At least nine people have been killed and 53 others wounded in the suicide bombing," senior police official Faisal Murad told AFP.

A spokesman for the main government-run Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar had earlier put the toll at eight with 49 wounded.

Police said it was a suicide attack.

"It was a suicide bombing," senior police official Shafqat Malik told AFP.

Ghulam, whose brother the late ANP leader Bashir Bilour was assassinated by the Taliban last year, became an insurgents' favourite after posting a $100,000 ransom for the death of a film-maker behind a controversial anti-Islam movie last year.

The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, but apologised for injuring Bilour, saying it had been targeting his nephew, Haroon.

"We apologise to Ghulam Bilour because we announced an amnesty for him," Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.

"Our target was Haroon Bilour," he said.

Haroon is the son of slain ANP leader Bashir, the elder brother of Ghulam who was killed in a suicide attack at a political meeting in Peshawar on December 22.

The Taliban has directly threatened the ANP and its outgoing coalition partners, the Pakistan People's Party and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement which are perceived as secular.

Up to six kilograms of explosives along with splinters and ball bearings were used in the bombing, officials said.

"We have found the feet of the bomber," police official Malik added.

Live television footage showed vehicles burning and people rescuing the wounded in a cloud of smoke.