PESHAWAR: A suicide bomber targeting a police van killed at least eight people in northwestern Pakistan on Monday, including the son and nephew of an Afghan official involved in peace negotiations with the Taliban, officials said.
The bomber was riding a motorcycle and detonated his explosives as the police patrol drove by in Peshawar, said city police chief Liaqat Ali Khan.
The two Afghans who were killed, Qazi Mohammad Hilal Waqad and Mohammad Idrees, were working at their country's consulate in Peshawar, said Afghan Consul General Syed Mohammad Ibrahim Khel in Islamabad.
However, it did not appear they were the target of the attack, Khel said.
Waqad's father, Qazi Amin Waqad, is a member of the Afghan High Peace Council, appointed by the Afghan government to hold peace negotiations with the Taliban, said an official at the consulate in Peshawar, Shakir Qarar.
The peace council member was in Afghanistan when the attack occurred, and Waqad and Idrees were driving to work at the time, Qarar added.
There were conflicting reports about the number of dead and wounded from the blast.
Khan, the Peshawar police chief, said the suicide bombing killed eight people and wounded 42.
A rescue worker, Mujahid Khan, said 10 people died and 50 were wounded.
Three policemen were among the wounded, Khan said. Many of the dead and wounded were on a nearby passenger bus, which bore much of the force of the explosion.
Local TV footage showed the wreckage of the bus and the motorcycle, as rescue workers rushed wounded people to hospitals in the city.
No one immediately claimed responsibility, but suspicion will likely to fall on the Pakistani Taliban. The group has been waging a bloody insurgency against the government for years and has stepped up attacks ahead of next month's parliamentary election.
Also Monday, two gunmen riding a motorcycle attacked a campaign office of an anti-Taliban political party in northwestern Pakistan, killing a worker there, police chief Khan said. The Awami National Party office is in the city of Nowshera.
On Sunday, the Taliban killed 11 people in bomb attacks on a political rally and two campaign offices in the northwest, part of their quest to disrupt the election. The group has killed at least 60 people in attacks on politicians and party workers since the beginning of April.
The Taliban have specifically targeted secular political parties that have supported military offensives against the militants in the northwest. The Taliban have largely spared Islamic parties and others who believe the government should strike a peace deal with the militants, rather than fight them.
There is a concern that the violence could benefit the parties that take a softer line toward the militants, because they are able to campaign more freely ahead of the May 11 election.
"Unless the government, the country's independent election commission and security forces ensure that all parties can campaign freely without fear, the election may be severely compromised," Ali Dayan Hasan, the head of Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, said in a statement issued Monday.
Bashir Jan, a senior member of the Awami National Party who survived a recent bomb attack in the southern city of Karachi, also criticized the government for not doing enough to protect candidates, but he said they were determined to carry on.
"These attacks will not deter us," Jan said at a press conference in Karachi. "We are determined to contest elections." (AP)