Twin blasts kill 26 ahead of Pakistan election

Security personnel inspect the site of a bomb blast outside the office of an independent candidate in Pishin district in Pakistan.

Security personnel inspect the site of a bomb blast outside the office of an independent candidate in Pishin district in Pakistan. Photo: AFP/Getty

Two explosions near electoral candidates’ offices in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan have killed 26 people and wounded dozens on the eve of a general election.

Pakistan goes to the polls on Thursday amid rising militant attacks and the jailing of Imran Khan, the winner of the last national election, who has been dominating the headlines despite an economic crisis and other woes threatening the nuclear-armed country.

Authorities have said they are boosting security at polling booths.

The first attack, which killed 14 people, took place at the office of an independent election candidate in Pishin district.

The second explosion in Qilla Saifullah, a town near the Afghan border, detonated near an office of Jamiat Ulema Islam, a religious party that has previously been the target of militant attacks, according to the province’s information minister.

The deputy commissioner of Qila Saifullah, Yasir Bazai, said that 12 people were killed in the blast which emanated from a motorcycle parked near the office and 25 were injured.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the two blasts in a message on its Telegram channel on Wednesday.

Several other groups, including the Islamist militant Pakistani Taliban (TTP) and separatist groups from Balochistan, oppose the Pakistani state and have also carried out attacks in recent months.

A TTP spokesman claimed an attack on Monday that killed 10 people at a police station in northwest Pakistan. The TTP has said it was targeting police and security officials rather than electoral candidates.

Pakistan’s foreign office said in a statement its western border crossings with Iran and Afghanistan would close and reopen on Friday to ensure security during the election.

Khanzai hospital, close to the site of the explosion in Pishin on Wednesday, put the death toll at 14 and said more than two dozen were wounded. The deputy commissioner of Pishin district, Jumma Dad Khan, said the blast had wounded many people.

“I’m appalled by today’s terrorist attacks and condemn those seeking to prevent people from voting,” British High Commissioner to Pakistan Jane Marriott said.

The attacks came as political parties wrapped up their campaigning in the quiet period mandated by electoral rules the day before the election.

Khan, in a message from jail, earlier urged his supporters to wait outside polling booths after casting their votes, as rival political parties held large rallies to mark the end of the election campaign period.

Any large-scale gathering of Khan’s supporters near booths could raise tensions because of what they call a military-backed crackdown on him and his party that has restricted campaigning. The military denies interfering in politics.

The origin of the image, the first of Khan in months, was not clear.

Previously Khan’s supporters have disseminated his messages, including through AI-generated audio speeches, from notes he has passed on through his lawyers during prison visits.

-with AP

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