Taliban militants attacked the election motorcade of a secularist-backed politician with a roadside bomb on Sunday, wounding him and killing two of his supporters, police and the militant group said.
It was the latest attack by militants against figures associated with the Awami National Party. Both the ANP and the Taliban have strong support among ethnic Pashtuns who dominate Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the northwestern province in which the blast took place. It comes the day after a man armed with guns and grenades killed a school principal and ANP member in Karachi, a southern port city with a large Pashtun migrant community.
Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan claimed responsibility for the attack on Malik Adnan Wazir. "We have targeted Adnan Wazir's convoy for his support for the secular system and the secular party," he said in a phone call from an undisclosed location.
The blast struck Wazir's convoy as he was campaigning in the Wali Noor area for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial legislature, said senior police officer Iqbal Khattak. The vote, scheduled for May 11, is a landmark in Pakistan's history. The country has experienced multiple coups in past decades and the elections are expected to be the first time that a civilian government will pass power to another.
Two vehicles in the convoy were destroyed, wounding eight people including the candidate, said police officer Hidayatulah Khan. He said two of the eight died at the hospital while Wazir himself is in stable condition.
Abbas Ali Khan, a witness and relative of Wazir, told the The Associated Press that Wazir's personal vehicle was destroyed, but that the candidate had been transferred to another vehicle that suffered only partial damage at an earlier campaign stop. He said that tribal elders Malik Maqbool Khan and Malik Mumtaz who were traveling in Wazir's vehicle both died.
Taliban militants in recent years have targeted several ANP leaders, including one senior politician, Bashir Bilour, who died in a suicide attack in December 2012 in the provincial capital Peshawar.
Associated Press writers Riaz Khan and Rasool Dawar in Peshawar, Pakistan, contributed to this report.