'Suicide bomb' at north-west Pakistan political rally



At least 19 people have been killed in a suspected suicide attack at a political party rally in north-west Pakistan, police say.

A police official told Reuters news agency the bomber had blown himself up at the gates of the venue.

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

There have also been reports of least one explosion in Peshawar, one of the major cities in the region.

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

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

Militant target

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.