Officials say that at least five people died and scores were wounded in a suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque on Sunday in Pakistani-administered Kashmir.
AFP - A suicide attack outside a Shiite Muslim mosque in Pakistani-administered Kashmir killed at least five people on Sunday as the faithful commemorated Ashura, an official said.
The attack in Muzaffarabad came after Pakistan put tens of thousands of security forces on alert, fearing sectarian clashes and militant attacks as millions of Shiites marked the seventh-century killing of Imam Hussein.
A severed leg and other body parts littered the ground outside the mosque where the electricity went off after the blast, said an AFP reporter.
"It was a suicide attack. Five people have died, two of them were civilians and three were policemen," Chaudhry Imtiaz, deputy commissioner of Pakistani-administered Kashmir, told reporters at the bomb site.
"Eighty-one people were wounded, 10 of them seriously," he added.
Shiites account for about 20 percent of Pakistan's mostly Sunni Muslim population of 167 million. More than 4,000 people have died in outbreaks of sectarian violence in Pakistan since the late 1980s.
Police said the bomber tried to enter the mosque, which was crowded with Shiite Muslims gathering to pray for Ashura, which ends Monday in Pakistan.
"It was a suicide attack. The bomber was trying to enter inside the Imambargah mosque," police official Yaseen Baig told AFP at the scene.
Ashura rituals see faithful in black march through the streets, flailing themselves with chains to commemorate the killing of Imam Hussein by armies of the Sunni caliph Yazid in 680.
In Pakistan's financial capital of Karachi, where 20,000 policemen and paramilitary Rangers were deployed, explosives planted in a gutter ripped through an Ashura procession, wounding 17 people, officials said.
"The explosives had been put in the gutter. They exploded when the Shiite procession was passing," said Karachi police official Fayyaz Ahmad Qureshi.
"We have received 17 injured. There is one child and four policemen among the wounded," said Doctor Jamil Ashfaq.
Militant attacks have killed more than 2,700 people since July 2007 and Washington is pressuring Pakistan to do more to crack down on Al-Qaeda and stop insurgents crossing the border to attack Western troops in Afghanistan.
Officials in Pakistan's capital Islamabad and other cities said security forces were on high alert, with security cameras and scanners installed at the entrance to main mosques and the army on standby.
In Lahore, Pakistan's most liberal city hit by a rising number of suicide and gun attacks, police patrolled roads and guarded roof tops.
"More than 25,000 policemen and officers have been deputed. No vehicle will be allowed to park near the Imambargah or the processions," city police chief Pervez Rathore told AFP.
In northwest metropolis Peshawar, where 18 bomb attacks linked to the Taliban have struck in three months, 11,000 police and paramilitary personnel were on guard to protect processions, police said.
"Security is on high alert. The army is on standby if we need them," Sahibzada Mohammad Anis, the city's top administrative official told AFP.
Date created : 2009-12-27