PARACHINAR, Pakistan – A suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated his explosives near a vehicle carrying a candidate from a hard-line Islamist party in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, killing 12 people in the second attack on the party in as many days, police said.
No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing, but the Taliban took credit for an attack the day before on the same party, claiming it was targeting a candidate who had supported military operations against the militants in the northwest.
The blast Tuesday also wounded 35 people, but the candidate from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, Mufti Syed Janan, escaped unharmed, said police officer Haleem Khan. The attack occurred as Janan's convoy passed through a market in the town of Doaba in northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said Khan.
The Pakistani Taliban set off a bomb at a political rally held by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam in the northwest Kurram tribal region on Monday, killing 25 people and wounding 70, said government official Javed Khan. The targeted candidate was not harmed.
The Taliban have carried out multiple attacks in the run-up to national elections scheduled for May 11. But most of the attacks have targeted secular parties that have opposed the militants and backed the army's attempt to clear them from their sanctuaries in the northwest.
Prior to the last two days' bombings, there was concern that the attacks could benefit parties that take a softer line toward the militants, like Jamiat Ulema -e-Islam, because their candidates are able to campaign more freely ahead of the vote.
But the Taliban have also condemned democracy as a whole, meaning that any political party taking part in the elections could be considered fair game by the militant group. Militants have called on people in many areas to stay away from the polls on election day.
The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party is considered supportive of the Afghan Taliban's fight against the United States and its allies in neighboring Afghanistan. It's also sympathetic to the Pakistani Taliban, which have been fighting Pakistani troops and would like to establish a hardline Islamic government in Pakistan. The group's leaders have generally opposed the Pakistani military's operations against the militants and instead called for negotiating with them.
But that hasn't made the group immune.
In 2011, a suicide bomber struck a convoy in which the party's head, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, was traveling through northwestern Pakistan, killing 12 people.
Associated Press writer Riaz Khan contributed to this report from Peshawar, Pakistan.