At least 7 killed in attack on Shi'ite procession in Pakistan

Sat Nov 24, 2012 11:43am EST
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By Mehreen Zahra-Malik

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A roadside bomb killed at least seven people near a Shi'ite procession in Pakistan on Saturday, police said, with security forces on high alert over fears of large-scale sectarian attacks on the minority sect across the country.

Pakistan, a nuclear-armed U.S. ally, is suspending phone coverage in many cities this weekend, an important one in the Shi'ite Muslim calendar, after a series of bomb attacks on Shi'ites triggered by mobile phones.

Hardline Sunnis have threatened more attacks as the Shi'ite mourning month of Muharram comes to a climax. More than a dozen people have already been killed this week observing Muharram.

Some Shi'ites have been receiving text message death threats.

Saturday's attack occurred in the city of Dera Ismail Khan in Pakistan's northwest, a stronghold of al-Qaeda-linked Sunni militant groups who regard Shi'ites as non-Muslims and have stepped up sectarian attacks in a bid to destabilize Pakistan.

Four children were among those killed by a 8-10 kg bomb set off by a television remote control device because cellphones were not operational, police said. Khalid Aziz Baloch, a senior medical official, said 30 people were wounded.

The explosion was so powerful that it hurled a young boy onto a rooftop from a street, where a man later carried away half of his body, as a policeman with a bomb detector and residents stood near blood stains.

In neighboring Afghanistan, clashes between Shi'ites and Sunnis on Saturday left two students dead and wounded two more, police said. The fighting took place at Kabul University when Shi'ites were blocked from commemorating Ashura day inside a mosque on the campus.   Continued...

A security officer collects evidence on the roof of a house after a roadside bomb during a Shi'ite procession in Dera Ismail Khan, in Pakistan's northwest, November 24, 2012. REUTERS/mustansar baloch