At least 23 Shias feared dead in Pakistan blasts
Four terror attacks rocked Pakistan on Thursday, targetting the Shia community across the country, killing at least 14 people. The Associated Press reports the death toll to be as high as 23.
The blasts took place outside Shia prayers halls in Karachi, Rawalpindi, Quetta and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province’s Bannu District, during the holiest month of the year for the sect.
A suicide bomber attacked a procession around midnight on Wednesday in Rawalpindi, said Deeba Shahnaz, a State rescue official.
At least 62 people were wounded by the blast, including six policemen. Eight of the dead and wounded were children, said Shahnaz.
Police tried to stop and search the bomber as he attempted to join the procession, but he ran past them and detonated his explosives, said senior police official Haseeb Shah. The attacker was also carrying grenades, some of which exploded, said Shah.
“I think the explosives combined with grenades caused the big loss,” said Shah.
Local TV footage showed the scene of the bombing littered with body parts and smeared with blood. Shiites beat their heads and chests in anguish.
“It was like the world was ending,” said one of the victims, Nasir Shah, describing the blast. He was being treated at a local hospital for wounds to his hands and legs.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Taliban set off two bombs within minutes outside a Shiite mosque in the southern city of Karachi, killing at least one person and wounding several others, senior police official Javed Odho said.
“We have a war of belief with Shiites,” Ahsan told sources by telephone from an undisclosed location. “They are blasphemers. We will continue attacking them.”
The first blast occurred when a suicide bomber’s explosives detonated when his motorcycle collided with an auto-rickshaw a short distance from the main gate of the Imambargah at Orangi Town.
Besides the suicide attacker, the auto-rickshaw driver was killed in the first blast. Police said they had collected the body parts of the suicide bomber.
About an hour later, an improvised explosive device (IED) planted near the same Imambargah was triggered by remote control as rescue workers and members of a bomb disposal were clearing the site of the first blast.
A large number of reporters and television cameramen were present at the time of the second blast.
Over 15 people, including media representatives, two children and security personnel, were injured in the attacks.
In Quetta, the capital of the restive Balochistan province, five persons, including three security personnel and a woman, were killed and 28 more injured when a security forces vehicle was hit by a powerful roadside bomb at Shahbaz town.
A bomb with about 15 kg of explosives was attached to a motorcycle and detonated by remote control as the security forces vehicle was passing the area, police said. The vehicle was escorting another vehicle carrying school children.
Nearly 10 security personnel were among the injured and some of them were in a serious condition, police said. Several buildings and vehicles in the neighbourhood were damaged.
In the third incident, militants gunned down four policemen, including a police station chief, at Bannu in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
The militants fired at a police vehicle that was on a routine patrol, killing the policemen instantly.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik told the media this evening that there were reports that terrorists intent on destabilising Karachi and Quetta could carry out more attacks on Friday.
He said the terrorists were likely to target Imambargahs and owners of shops around the prayer halls had been asked to close their outlets on Friday.
Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan claimed responsibility for the attacks in Rawalpindi and Karachi.
(With AP/PTI inputs)
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Rezaul H Laskar is a Guest Contributor at Niti Central.