Bomb kills three at Pakistan election rally

A bomb tore through a Pakistan election rally Monday, killing three people and wounding 45 others in the first campaign attack on a political party in the northwestern tribal belt.

The attack brings to 72 the number of people killed in violence targeting politicians and political parties since April 11, according to an AFP tally, ahead of Pakistan's historic elections on Saturday.

The explosion targeted the right-wing Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), a religious party in the outgoing government coalition, in Kurram, one of the seven districts making up Pakistan's Taliban-infested tribal belt on the Afghan border.

"Three people have died and 45 are injured. Eleven of them are in a critical condition," Riaz Khan, the top administrative official in Kurram, told AFP.

Khan said the bomb was planted inside the building where two national assembly candidates representing the JUI faction led by cleric Fazul-ur-Rehman were speaking to supporters.

One of the candidates, Munir Orakzai, escaped unhurt while the other, Ain u Din Shakir, was slightly injured, Khan said.

It was the first deadly attack on a political party in Pakistan's tribal belt since campaigning began for the polls, which will mark the first democratic transition of power after a civilian government completes a full-term in office.

Pakistan's interim Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso strongly condemned the attack and said that another national assembly candidate, had been injured.

Repeated calls from the interim administration for candidates to be granted more security have failed to stop a wave of attacks, most of them claimed by the Pakistani Taliban.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest blast. The tribal belt is a stronghold of Islamist militants and Kurram has been bogged by sectarian violence between Pakistan's Sunni Muslim majority and Shiite minority.

The Pakistani Taliban have condemned the elections as unIslamic and directly threatened the main outgoing coalition parties, the PPP, the MQM and the ANP.

But Rehman and his JUI-F faction have been a mediator between the authorities and the insurgent group, which have been blamed for killing thousands of Pakistanis in a domestic insurgency over the last six years.

Elections have been postponed in three constituencies, in the southwestern province Baluchistan, in Pakistan's biggest city of Karachi and in the southern city of Hyderabad, where candidates have been killed.