Pakistan suicide bomber brings carnage to Friday prayers

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The Independent Online

A suicide bomber blew himself during Friday prayers in a Pakistani Shiite mosque, killing at least 14 worshippers and injuring dozens of others.

A suicide bomber blew himself during Friday prayers in a Pakistani Shiite mosque, killing at least 14 worshippers and injuring dozens of others.

Police said that up to 500 people were inside the mosque in Sialkot at the time of the blast, which triggered a riot by outraged worshippers.

Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said 14 people were killed and dozens were injured.

Nisar Ahmed, police chief in Sialkot, said: "Dozens of people have been taken to hospital in critical condition, and I think the casualties and death toll will rise."

Another official at the police control room in the eastern city said the blast left a crater inside the mosque and had caused severe damage to the walls and shattered windows.

Ahmed said body parts were scattered inside the mosque, and a mob was preventing police from entering inside. People had started pelting police with bricks and stones and wrecking property, torching at least one motorbike.

"I'm trying to handle the situation, I'm holding talks with their elders. I'm telling them we've come to help them," Ahmed said.

He said that according to witnesses, a man with a briefcase entered the mosque shortly before the blast and the briefcase had exploded. "Based on this account, I think it's a suicide attack," the police chief said.

Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said: "This is the work of enemies of Pakistan and enemies of Islam, and we condemn it," he told AP in Islamabad.

Mosques of Pakistan's Shiite minority have often been targeted in sectarian violence with majority Sunni Muslims. Most of Pakistan's 150 million Muslims live in harmony, but there are radical elements on both sides of the sectarian divide.

The attack comes less than a week after Pakistan arrested a top al-Qaida suspect, Amjad Hussain Farooqi, believed to be behind the kidnapping and beheading in 2002 of American reporter Daniel Pearl, and two failed assassination attempts on President General Pervez Musharraf that left 17 other people dead in December 2003.

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