Suicide bomber kills eight in Pakistan

A suicide bomber killed at least eight people and wounded 45 others when he rammed his motorcycle into a bus in Pakistan's northwestern city of Peshawar on Monday, police said.

Two staff at the Afghan consulate were among those killed in the attack, which police said targeted a top civil servant who heads the city's administration.

Violence has spiked in the nuclear-armed country ahead of national elections on May 11 with at least 58 people killed in attacks on politicians and political parties since April 11, according to an AFP tally.

Monday's suicide bombing targeted senior official Sahibzada Anees, who passed by shortly before the blast in the Jehangir Abad neighbourhood.

"At least eight people were killed and 45 others were wounded in the suicide bombing," police official Mohammad Faisal told AFP.

"The commissioner, who passed just a minute before from the road, was the target of the bombing, but he escaped unhurt as the bomber missed the target and struck his motorcycle into a passenger bus," Faisal said.

Syed Mohammad Ibrahim Khel, Afghan consul general in Peshawar, confirmed two employees who were standing at a bus stop were among those killed in the attack.

Qazi Hilal worked as a business attache and Mohammad Idrees in the refugee section of the consulate, Khel said.

Police said body parts of the suicide bomber were found at the site and hospital officials confirmed the death toll. Bomb squad officials said the explosives weighed up to six kilograms (13 pounds).

Later Monday, two gunmen on a motorbike opened fire on the election office of a candidate for the regional assembly in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, killing his security guard in the town of Nowshera.

Candidate Shahid Khan Khattak represents the Awami National Party (ANP), one of the three main parties in the outgoing national coalition directly threatened by the Taliban ahead of elections.

"Khattak was in his office at the time of attack but remained unhurt. Nobody was injured in the attack. The attackers escaped after killing one security guard," police official Waqar Ahmed told AFP.

Elsewhere in the northwest, a bomb planted on a motorcycle in Charsadda district ripped through another ANP rally, killing one activist and wounding three children, local doctor Nasir Khan said.

"A motorcycle packed with around three kilograms of explosive material was parked on the road at a rally organised by the provincial assembly candidate from ANP Mohammad Ahmed," added Mohammad Ali, a senior police official.

US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday added its voice to calls on the authorities to do everything possible to ensure the safety of candidates and party activists, warning that the democratic process was under threat.

"Unless the government, the country's independent election commission and security forces ensure that all parties can campaign freely without fear, the election may be severely compromised," said HRW's Pakistan director Ali Dayan Hasan.