9 killed as Taliban attacks target secular campaigns in Pakistan


By Fakhar ur Rehman, for NBC News

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The Taliban in Pakistan has stepped up its campaign of terror attacks in an effort to stymie public meetings by secular political parties ahead of a general election scheduled for May 11.

Pakistani police officers inspect the election campaign office of independent candidate Waris Afridi, after a bomb explosion on the outskirts of Peshawar.

Pakistani police officers inspect the election campaign office of independent candidate Waris Afridi, after a bomb explosion on the outskirts of Peshawar.

Dual attacks Sunday targeted the offices of two political parties in the northwest part of Pakistan, killing nine people. In the first attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a political office in the city of Kohat, killing six and injuring nine.

The second bombing, in the suburb of Peshawar, killed three and injured 11. Pakistani officials said the attacks were designed to suppress political participation by secular parties.

“The purpose of the attacks are to keep away secular political parties,” Pakistan’s former Interior Minister Rehman Malik told NBC News. “Dark black clouds are hovering on the fate of the elections.”

The two attacks Sunday followed a string of deadly bombings targeting politicians in recent days. Last week, a suicide bomber blew himself outside a political meeting in Peshawar, killing 16.

The Taliban claimed responsibly for the bombing campaign, a spokesman for the group told NBC News.

Ihsanullah Ihsan, speaking from an undisclosed location, said the Taliban had attacked targeted three “secular, pro-West” political parties.

“We accept the responsibility of all the attacks on politicians and their offices,” Ihan said.

He said the attacks would continue and that the political parties targeted by the Taliban had “killed hundreds of our people and destroyed their houses during military operations in the country.”

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