Taliban gunmen kill Pakistani election candidate

In this Thursday, March 28, 2013 photo, Pakistan army vehicles patrol Sararogha, which was the stronghold of the Taliban in South Waziristan, the Pakistani tribal area bordering Afghanistan. After battling Taliban militants in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan for over a decade, the Pakistani military is engaged in a new fight. This time it's for the hearts and minds of the people who are returning to the region after living for years as refugees in their own country and harbor a longstanding mistrust of the central government. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — Taliban assailants on a motorcycle gunned down a candidate running in Pakistan's upcoming elections on Thursday, an official and a Taliban spokesman said, underscoring threats to the country's former ruling party and other secular and political groups.

Fakhurl Islam, whose party has spoken out strongly against the militant group, was killed near his home in Hyderabad city in southern Sindh province, police official Saqib Ismail Memon said. He had been running for provincial assembly in voting scheduled for next month.

"We condemn this heinous crime and we demand that all the candidates should be provided better security by the government," said Qamar Mansoor, a spokesman for Islam's party, the Muttahida Quami Movement or MQM.

Hours later, Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan claimed responsibility and vowed to continue such attacks in future. The Taliban have threatened to attack members of the MQM because of its statements.

The MQM was once part of a coalition government with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, which came into power following the 2008 parliamentary elections after her assassination. Bhutto's party completed its term last month but has been fielding candidates for both national and provincial assemblies.

On Thursday, the Taliban's Ahsan vowed to continue targeting the MQM, the Awami National Party and Bhutto's party "for working against them" when the three parties were in power from 2008 to 2013.

Taliban militants in recent years have mainly targeted the ANP leaders in the northwest, killing one of its senior politicians, Bashir Bilour, in a suicide attack in December 2012 in the city of Peshawar.

On March 31, the Taliban attacked the motorcade of a campaigning ANP politician with a roadside bomb in the northwestern city of Bannu, wounding him and killing two of his supporters.

Thursday's attack indicated the Taliban threat was not confined to northwest or Karachi as the latest attack took place some 100 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of Karachi, the country's financial capital where MQM enjoys major support.


Associated Press writer Rasool Dawar contributed to this report from Peshawar, Pakistan.