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Page last updated at 12:54 GMT, Monday, 5 April 2010 13:54 UK

'Suicide bomb' at north-west Pakistan political rally

Screen grab of the scene from Pakistani television
Hundreds of people were attending the outdoor gathering

At least 43 people have been killed in a suspected suicide attack at a political party rally in north-west Pakistan, police say.

Witnesses said the detonation occurred near the stage at the outdoor rally, attended by hundreds of people.

The party targeted, the ethnic Pashtun Awami National Party, heads a coalition in North West Frontier Province.

Separately, a series of large explosions has hit Peshawar, one of the major cities in the region.

Witnesses reported seeing plumes of thick grey smoke over the garrison part of the city. US officials said the US consulate was the target of the attacks.

A protracted gun battle followed the blasts.

Militant target

The political rally was taking place in Lower Dir district, scene of a major offensive against the Taliban last year.

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Pakistan state TV said hundreds of people were taking part in the rally, in the town of Timergara.

They were celebrating plans to change the name of North West Frontier Province to Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa - meaning "Khyber side of the land of the Pakhtuns".

"Our party had arranged a thanksgiving day to celebrate the changing of the name after 200 years of colonial legacy," an ANP spokesman told Geo television.

The renaming is likely to be endorsed by the national parliament this week.

More than 50 people were said to have been injured in the attack.

ANP, a secular-nationalist party, has been the target of Taliban militants in Swat, Dir and Buner districts.

Dozens of its local leaders were killed by militants during the two years that the Taliban controlled these districts, but last year's operation cleared most areas of the threat.

This is the first major attack in Dir since 4 February, when a suicide car bomb killed at least eight people, including three US citizens and a number of schoolgirls.



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