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Death toll from blast at election rally in Pakistan rises to 24


The death toll from a bomb explosion Monday at an election rally in a Pakistani tribal area bordering Afghanistan has risen to 24, with around 70 others injured, Geo News television reported Tuesday.

The blast, which occurred at a Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) rally at a religious school in Sewak village of Kurram Agency, was initially reported to have killed 15 people and injured 36 others.

GEO TV said the blast, which occurred ahead of next Saturday's general election, appeared to target JUI-F candidate Munir Orakzai, who escaped unharmed.

Citing local authorities, the report said the blast was caused by an improvised explosive device in which 10 kilograms of explosives were used.

It was detonated remotely after Orakzai and Maulana Ainuddin, a fellow JUI-F candidate from a neighboring constituency, had finished delivering speeches at the rally and were leaving the stage.

Geo TV said the Pakistani Taliban, which oppose the general election, have claimed responsibility for the blast, saying they targeted Orakzai for his connections with Pakistan's ruling coalition.

It was first time since the start of the campaign that a public meeting of the JUI-F, a religious party normally targeted by the Pakistani Taliban, has been attacked.

The militants have until now targeted only leaders and meetings of the ruling Pakistan People's Party and its coalition partners, the Awami National Party and the Muttahida Quami Movement.

Geo TV quoted a spokesman for the militants as saying their target in Monday's blast was Orakzai, not JUI-F party activists.