Five killed in Pakistan shrine bomb attack

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The Independent Online

A bomb planted on a motorcycle exploded at the gate of a famous Sufi shrine in central Pakistan during morning prayers today, killing at least five people, officials said.

The blast at the Farid Shakar Ganj shrine in Punjab province was the latest in a string of attacks targeting Sufi shrines in Pakistan.

Islamist militants often target Sufis, whose mystical practices clash with their hardline interpretations of Islam.

The dead from today's attack included at least one woman, said Maher Aslam Hayat, a senior government official in the Pak Pattan district where the shrine is located. At least 13 others were wounded in the explosion, he said.

The blast damaged several shops outside the shrine, said Mr Hayat. But the shrine itself, which is dedicated to a 12th century Sufi saint, was largely unscathed, he said.

After the attack, a top Sufi scholar, Mufti Muneebur Rehman, criticised the government for not doing enough to protect the Sufi population. Pakistan is 95% Muslim, and the majority practice Sufi-influenced Islam.

"Our rulers are too busy serving foreign masters and have not prioritised protecting the people and sacred places from terrorists," said Mr Rehman.

Earlier this month, two suspected suicide bombers attacked the most beloved Sufi shrine in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, killing at least eight people and wounding 65 others.

A suicide attack in July killed 47 people at the nation's most revered Sufi shrine, Data Darbar in the eastern city of Lahore. That attack infuriated many Pakistanis, who saw it as an unjustified assault on peaceful civilians.