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Pakistan: Suicide bomber targets mosque

22 November 2012, 09:01

Islamabad — A suicide bomber struck a Shi'ite Muslim procession near Pakistan's capital, killing 23 people in the latest of a series of bombings targeting Shi'ites during the holiest month of the year for the sect, officials said on Thursday.

The bomber attacked the procession around midnight on Wednesday in the city of Rawalpindi, located next to the capital, Islamabad, 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.

Earlier on Wednesday, two bombs went off within minutes outside a Shi'ite mosque in the southern city of Karachi, killing at least one person and wounding several others, senior police official Javed Odho said.

The bombings came as Shi'ites were observing the holy month of Muharram. On Saturday, Shi'ites will observe the holiest day of the month, Ashoura, which commemorates the seventh century death of Imam Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson.

Sunnis and Shi'ites have been at odds since the seventh century over the true heir to Muhammad.

Pakistan has a long history of sectarian violence carried out by both extremist Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims against the opposite sect. Most attacks in recent years have targeted Shi'ites, who make up a minority in the overwhelmingly Muslim country.

- AP

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