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Asia-pacific

Anti-Taliban cleric dies in twin suicide attacks

Video by Yuka ROYER

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-06-12

Prominent anti-Taliban cleric Sarfraz Naeemi was killed in a suicide attack at a mosque in Lahore, police say. Minutes earlier, a car filled with explosives ploughed into the wall of a mosque in the north-western garrison town of Nowshera.

AFP - At least six people including a prominent anti-Taliban cleric were killed and more than 90 wounded in suicide bombings at mosques in two Pakistani cities Friday, police said.
   
Religious scholar Sarfraz Naeemi, who had spoken out against Taliban suicide bombings, was killed in one of the attacks at a mosque in Lahore, which drew sharp condemnation from Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
   
Four people died and at least 90 others were wounded when an explosives-filled car ploughed into the wall of a mosque in the northwestern garrison town of Nowshera, police said, adding that the roof of the building had collapsed.
   
"We have received four dead bodies and 90 injured in the hospital," doctor Sabz Ali of Nowshera's main government hospital told AFP.
   
"We have declared an emergency in the hospital, some of the injured are serious and we urgently need blood for them," Ali said.
   
A "suicide attacker rammed his explosive-laden car into the mosque" just as people had gathered for Friday prayers, police official Imran Kishwar told AFP.
   
The roof of the mosque caved in after the blast and a number of people were trapped under the rubble, he said.
   
"We have started rescue work on site, we are facing difficulties as people are trapped under the debris of the roof," Kishwar said and added that "some of the injured are in serious condition and death toll may rise."
   
"Some badly mutilated body parts found at the blast site could be of the suicide attacker," Kishwar said.
   
"Several vehicles parked in front of the mosque were also damaged," he said.
   
The second suicide bombing targeting Naeemi, the head of the Jamia Naeemia madrassa, took place at Garhi Shahu neighbourhood of Lahore, Pakistan's largest city and the country's political nerve centre, officials said.
   
Lahore police chief Pervez Rathore said that a suicide bomber entered the room where Naeemi was sitting with others after Friday prayers, and blew himself up. He said two people were killed in the blast.
   
"Sarfraz Naeemi was seriously injured and shifted to hospital where he passed away," provincial police chief Tariq Saleem Dogar told reporters.
   
"It happened after Friday prayers. Seven injured people, including the administrator of Jamia Naeemia, were shifted to hospital," Lahore administration chief Sajjad Bhutta told reporters.
   
Asked if the attack was aimed at Naeemi because of his support for a military operation aimed at flushing the Taliban out of Swat valley in the northwest, Bhutta said it was not certain, but "prima facie, yes."
   
Naeemi had issued a fatwa (edict) against suicide bombings carried out by Taliban militants.
   
Live television footage showed angry Jamia Naeemia students holding a protest and clashing with police after hearing news of Naeemi's death.
   
The blast damaged the interior of the room where Naeemi was sitting and an AFP photographer said he saw blood spots amid the dusty rubble piled in the room.
   
Prime Minister Gilani "strongly condemned" the blast and killing of Naeemi and several others, the Associated Press of Pakistan said.
   
Gilani also condemned the the blast at a mosque in Nowshera and ordered an inquiry into the incidents, it said.
   
The bombings are the latest in a string of attacks in Pakistan widely seen as revenge by the Taliban for a punishing military offensive launched against insurgents around Swat valley on April 26.
   
At least nine people were killed in a suicide bombing at a luxury hotel in the northwestern city of Peshawar earlier this week.
   
Lahore, Pakistan's cultural capital, has been the scene of three deadly attacks in the recent months, as extremist violence closed in on the nuclear-armed country's political heartland.
   
On March 3, gunmen ambushed the Sri Lankan cricket team bus in Lahore, killing eight Pakistanis and ending hopes of the country's hosting international sport in the immediate future.
   
Later that month, gunmen stormed a police academy outside Lahore, killing eight recruits. Four attackers were also killed.
   
A gun, grenade and bomb attack in late May levelled a police building and damaged the provincial headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), killing 24 people.
 

Date created : 2009-06-12

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