Pakistani official says 3 bombs kill 6 during Shiite procession in city of Lahore, wound 88By AP
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Official: 3 bombs kill 6 at Pakistani Shiite march
LAHORE, Pakistan — Three suicide bombs ripped through a Shiite Muslim religious procession in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Wednesday, killing six people and wounding at least 88, police said.
The explosions appeared to be the latest in a string of attacks by Sunni extremists against the minority Shiites they consider infidels.
The bombs exploded at three separate sites as 35,000 Shiites marched through the streets of Lahore in their traditional mourning procession for the caliph Ali, one of Shiite Islam’s most respected holy men, said Khusro Pervez, the top administrative official in the city.
He said six bodies had been brought to the morgue and 88 people had been hospitalized, but he warned the number of dead could rise.
After the blasts, the marchers erupted in fury and set fire to a police station and at least one police truck.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the blasts in a statement and said the attackers would not escape justice.
Footage of the first explosion shown on Geo television showed a small blast erupting amid a crowd of people on the street followed by a large plume of smoke. Hundreds of people fled from the blast, while others rushed to the area to carry the wounded to safety.
Islamist extremists have a history of attacking Shiites, non-Muslims and others they deem unacceptable.
In July, twin suicide attacks at Pakistan’s most popular Sufi shrine killed 42 people. Another suicide bomber wounded eight worshippers at a Shiite mosque in eastern Pakistan.
Meanwhile, a bomb exploded near a police vehicle in the town of Shabqadar in northwest Pakistan, killing one passer-by and wounding 15 people including one police officer, police officer Nisar Khan said.
The bombings came after Pakistan army jets and helicopters targeted militant hide-outs near the Afghan border, killing 60 people identified as insurgents or their family members, including children, security officials and a witness said.
The deadliest strikes hit an area where army fire had killed 60 civilians earlier this year. Accounts of civilian casualties in army airstrikes make it harder for the military to win the support of local tribesman in the border region, something crucial to flushing out al-Qaida and Taliban militants who have found sanctuary there.
The attacks occurred Tuesday and Wednesday in different parts of the region.
There was no independent confirmation of the casualty figures because the area is too dangerous for outsiders to visit.
The raids Tuesday took place in several villages in Teerah Valley in the Khyber region and killed 45 people, the officials said. One official said some vehicles rigged with explosives had also been destroyed. He could not say how many.
He described the dead as insurgents, but said it was possible that people living with them could also have been killed. Separately, an intelligence officer said some women and children had been killed in the attacks.
Jihad Gul, who lives near one of the villages, said he had seen the bodies of at least 20 women and children.
Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said reports of civilian casualties were unconfirmed.
The security officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
An air attack Wednesday in the adjoining district of Orakzai killed 15 suspected militants and wounded 10 others, according to local government official Jamil Khan and a brief army statement.
In April, the Teerah Valley was hit by army airstrikes that killed about 60 civilians. The army, which initially described the victims as insurgents, ended up paying compensation to the victims’ families and its chief issued a rare public apology.
Pakistan’s army has been fighting Islamist militants in different parts of the northwest for more than two years.
Militants who fled major operations in the South Waziristan and Orakzai tribal regions are believed to have set up new bases in Khyber, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of the main city in the region, Peshawar.
Associated Press Writers Hussain Afzal in Parachinar and Riaz Khan in Peshawar contributed to this report.
Tags: As-pakistan, Asia, Bombings, Collateral Damage, Lahore, Militant Groups, Pakistan, Peshawar, Religious Strife, South Asia, Terrorism, War Casualties