Suicide bomber kills 40 at rally in Pakistan (UPDATE)
Forty people were killed and around 80 were injured when a suicide bombing ripped through a political rally organized by a secular nationalist party in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province on Monday, police said, DPA reported.
The bomber detonated his explosives as hundreds of activists of the Awami National Party (ANP) were gathered in Timar Girah, the main city of Lower Dir district, to celebrate the proposed renaming of province as Khyber Pakhtwankhwah in recognition of Pushto-speaking ethnic Pashtuns.
"According to the information we have received, 40 people were killed while more than 80 are injured," said Mumtaz Zarin, the district police chief. Four policemen were also among the injured.
Television footage showed people running in panic following the lethal blast and the injured being bundled and shoved into ambulances and private vehicles.
Zarin said between 8 to 10 kilograms of explosives were used in the bombing.
Qazi Jamil, the head of Malakand region of which Lower Dir is a district, said the bombing was "apparently carried out by a single suicide bomber who was on foot."
The ANP heads the regional government in the province and is supporting the military offensive against Taliban there.
Militants have carried out attacks against its activists and leaders for the last three years, killing dozens of them.
"People were celebrating when the enemies exploded the bomb," said Zahid Khan, an ANP spokesman, whose brother was injured in the attack.
"These people are neither Muslims, neither Pashtuns. They are not even human beings," he said.
The district head of the ANP, Sultan Zeb, also died in the bombing.
The attack in Dir came weeks after a car suicide bombing hit a military convoy in the district, killing five Pakistanis and three US soldiers on February 3.
The US troops were part of a team deployed to train the paramilitary Frontier Corps that is spearheading the action against Taliban in the north-western region.
Pakistani security forces carried out a major offensive in Lower Dir and nearby districts last spring to expel the Taliban fighters from the Swat valley.
Although the government forces have gained control over much of the area, Taliban fighters remain encamped in mountain hideouts.