Suicide bomber kills five, wounds Pakistan poll candidate

A suicide bomber killed at least five people and wounded a Pakistani election candidate Tuesday as he campaigned in the restive northwest, raising the death toll in the nation's bloody poll campaign to 97.

The latest attack in the town of Hangu, a flashpoint for violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, comes a day after the deadliest bombing so far on the election campaign.

"At least five people have been killed and several injured," police official Tahir Khan told AFP, warning that the death toll could rise.

Authorities said it was a suicide attack but presented different accounts over whether the bomber had been on foot or riding a motorcycle.

"He blew himself up near the vehicle of (parliamentary candidate) Syed Janan. He was injured but he is safe," Abdul Hameed Khan, a senior government official in Hangu said.

Tuesday's bombing raises to 97 the number of people killed in attacks on politicians and political parties since April 11, according to an AFP tally.

Janan, seeking re-election for the assembly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, is contesting Saturday's historic election for the right-wing Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, a religious party in the outgoing government coalition.

Janan told AFP by telephone that he had received injuries to his head and shoulder.

"I was on my election campaign and coming to my vehicle when the bomber blew himself up. I received some injuries but survived. Two of my guards were seriously wounded," he said.

A joint rally for two other candidates from the same faction of the party was bombed in the tribal district of Kurram on Monday, killing 23 people in the deadliest single attack on the campaign so far.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the target had been Munir Orakzai, a lawmaker in the national assembly who was in 2008 elected as an independent but allied to the outgoing government.

The insurgents have condemned Saturday's elections as un-Islamic and directly threatened the main parties in the outgoing coalition, the Pakistan People's Party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Awami National Party (ANP).

JUI-F and its leader, cleric Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, have been mediators between the authorities and the Taliban, blamed for killing thousands of Pakistanis in a domestic insurgency over the past six years.

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

The vote marks the first time that a civilian government in Pakistan has served a full-term in office and handed over to another at the ballot box. The nuclear-armed country has been ruled half its life by the military.

The race has been dominated by the centre-right: opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, head of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and cricket star Imran Khan, looking to make a breakthrough for his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.