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Pakistan blast toll rises to 27

  • Story Highlights
  • 27 people killed by suicide bomb at opposition party rally in Pakistan
  • Blast occurred in the town of Charsada in Peshawar province
  • ANP is Pashtun nationalist Party based in Pakistan's North West Frontier
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- The death toll in the bombing of a political gathering on Saturday has risen to 27 with more than 50 people wounded in the attack, according to an Associated Press report.

A Pakistani police officer examines the site of the suicide bombing in Charsadda, Pakistan.

The attack, which is likely to raise fears about greater election violence in Pakistan, took place in the town of Charsada in Peshawar province between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.

The Awami National Party is a Pashtun nationalist group based in Pakistan's North West Frontier.

Abdul Waheed, 22, who suffered burns from the blast, said the bomber struck as a member of the party was reciting verses from Islam's holy book, the Quran.

"I only heard the blast and cries and then something hit me and I fell down," Waheed told The Associated Press from his hospital bed in nearby Peshawar.

Television footage from the blast site, located in the sprawling residence of a party activist, showed the meeting hall littered with bloodstained clothes, police caps and overturned chairs.

Policeman Mohammed Khan told Associated Press two policemen were among the dead, and several children had been killed or injured.

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Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber who was "very close to the stage" where party officials were assembled, The Associated Press reported.

Local party leader Afrasiab Khattak was addressing the rally at the time but told Dawn television he was unhurt.

Nawaz said Islamic militants had threatened to attack all political parties in northwest Pakistan before parliamentary elections on February 18.

"They are against everyone," he told Dawn News TV.

The attack came one day after a Scotland Yard report said former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto died when the force of a bomb blast slammed her head into an escape hatch on her SUV in December.

Meanwhile, in the south, an estimated 100,000 supporters of Benazir Bhutto turned out for her party's first major election rally since her assassination on December 27. Bhutto's widowed husband told the crowd he had a responsibility to save the nation from President Pervez Musharraf's rule.

Also Saturday, riot police in the capital of Islamabad fired water cannons and tear gas against hundreds of lawyers protesting the detention of the deposed chief justice. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Zein Basravi contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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