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Mayoral Candidate Shot Dead In Northwestern Pakistan

The secular Awami National Party is a frequent target of radical Islamist militants in Pakistan. (file photo)

A mayoral candidate in northwestern Pakistan has been shot dead in a drive-by attack just ahead of elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

Local police say Omar Khitab Sherani was gunned down on the night of December 17-18 in the Dera Ismail Khan district by two men riding on motorcycles.

Sherani, a member of Pakistan's secular Awami National Party (ANP), was a candidate in elections on December 19 that will determine the head of a "tehsil," or subdistrict, in Dera Ismail Khan district.

A local ANP leader told RFE/RL that Sherani's body was discovered on the morning of December 18 on a street in front of his home.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, and police have launched an investigation.

Members of the ANP staged a protest against Sherani's assassination on December 18 and placed his body in front of the town hall in Dera Ismail Khan. Protesters chanted anti-government slogans, saying the government had failed to protect the political leadership.

Local elections will be held in 17 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province on December 19, and in 18 districts on January 16.

The elections feature 35,000 candidates and will determine the makeup of 66 tehsil councils as well as 2,382 town and village council seats.