A Shiite Muslim procession in central Pakistani town of Khanpur was targeted by a homemade bomb on Sunday which claimed the lives of 18 people and wounded dozens. The remote-controlled device exploded as the procession approached, police said.
REUTERS - A homemade bomb exploded on Sunday near a Shi’ite Muslim procession in the central Pakistani town of Khanpur, killing 18 people and wounding 30, police officials said.
The remote-controlled bomb was planted near an electric pole, said Sohail Chattha, the area’s police chief. He said it was set off as the procession approached.
“There was a loud explosion a few yards from the procession and we all scrambled to get away, » said Imran Iqbal, one of the members of the procession. “Debris was everywhere, and a cloud of dust engulfed us. Many people died on the spot.”
The processions of Shi’ite Muslims, who make up about 20 percent of Pakistan’s population, are often attacked by militant Sunni Muslim groups who consider them apostates of Islam.
Sunday’s procession was in observance of Arbain, or Chehlum, one of the main religious observances in the Shi’ite calendar.
Blood has spilled between Pakistan’s majority Sunni and minority Shi’ite militants for decades.
Sectarian strife has intensified since Sunni militants deepened ties with al Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban insurgents after Pakistan joined the U.S.-led campaign against militancy after the Sept. 11 attacks.