Police say 7 killed, 65 wounded in twin explosions at Sufi shrine in southern Pakistan

By Ashraf Khan, AP
Thursday, October 7, 2010

Police: Blasts kill 7 at Sufi shrine in Pakistan

KARACHI, Pakistan — Twin explosions rocked a famed Sufi shrine in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi on Thursday, killing at least seven people, wounding 65 others, and sending a stark reminder of the threat posed by Islamist militants to this U.S.-allied nation.

Security officials responding to the blasts at the Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine said they had found some suspicious packages and were evacuating people as quickly as possible. Two severed head were discovered, an indication that suicide bombers may have caused the explosions, officials said.

Pakistani shrines and mosques have frequently been the target of Islamist militant groups, whose hardline interpretations of Islam leave no room for the more mystical Sufi practices that are common in this Sunni Muslim-majority nation of 175 million. Earlier this year in the eastern city of Lahore, the nearly 50 people were killed in a similar attack at another major Sufi shrine.

The blasts at the Ghazi shrine came on a Thursday evening, the busiest time of the week for Sufi shrines across the country. Thousands typically visit that shrine on a Thursday, praying, distribute food to the poor and toss rose petals on the grave of the saint. Ghazi was an 8th century saint credited with bringing Islam to the region along the coast.

Witness Hassam Uddin said the two blasts occurred near the main entrance of the shrine’s compound before the metal detector, and that he saw 18 to 20 critically wounded people lying on the ground.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw blood, flesh and shoes splattered at the site. A young boy with blood-stained clothes cried for help in a police vehicle, TV footage showed. Dozens of ambulances lined up outside the ferry victims to hospitals.

As Tahir Salim, an official with the paramilitary Pakistani Rangers, said some suspicious packages were found. Police and other security officials held hands to keep people from going into the area.

The death toll was at least seven, Sindh province Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza said, adding that suicide bombers were suspected because of the severed heads discovered.

“We have provided the best available security at this shrine,” Mirza said. “Humanly, it is not possible to stop suicide bombers intent on exploding themselves.”

In July, twin suicide bombers attacked Data Darbar, Pakistan’s most revered Sufi shrine in the eastern city of Lahore, killing 47 people and wounding 180. That attack infuriated many Pakistanis, who saw it as an unjustified assault on peaceful civilians. In the aftermath, even amid fury against militants, many also blamed the U.S. presence in Afghanistan for fueling Islamist violence in their nation.

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