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Bombing at rally kills 9 in Pakistan

– A suicide bomber in Pakistan killed nine people including a government official at a political rally held Saturday by a party that has opposed the Taliban, officials said.

The rally in Peshawar, the capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, was held by the Awami National Party, whose members have been repeatedly targeted by the Taliban.

Among the dead was Bashir Bilour, the second most senior member of the provincial Cabinet, said Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, the politician’s brother and federal railways minister.

Over 20 others were wounded by the blast, local police officer Sabir Khan said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the bombing in a statement, reiterating the United Nations’ support for Pakistani efforts “to combat the scourge of terrorism.” Bilour was leaving the rally after delivering the keynote speech when the attack occurred, said Nazir Khan, a local Awami National Party leader.

“There was smoke and dust all around, and dead and wounded people were lying on the ground,” he said.

The suicide bomber was on foot, said another police officer, Imtiaz Khan.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa information minister and a member of the Awami National Party, said both he and Bilour had repeatedly received threats from militants. He said the government needed to intensify its battle against the Taliban.

“Terrorism has engulfed our whole society,” said Hussain. “They are targeting our bases, our mosques, our bazaars, public meetings and our security checkpoints.”

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