Over 20 killed in suicide bombing in Pak mosque

Agence France Presse

Islamabad, May 27:

A suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of a crowd of mainly Shiite Muslim worshippers at a Pakistani shrine today, killing at least 20 people and injuring over 60, officials and witnesses said. Hundreds of pilgrims were attending an annual religious celebration at the Bari Imam shrine in Nurpur, just north of Islamabad, when the blast occurred, witnesses said. The majority of the people marking the anniversary of a 17th century Muslim saint’s death were members of Shiite community. In previous days

the worshippers have been mainly Sunnis. “There were pools of blood everywhere and the bomb scattered body parts inside and outside the shrine,” witness Mohammed Amjad said.

Police found a decapitated head lying on the floor of the shrine some yards away from a dead body, and said a suicide bomber may have carried out the attack. “The death toll is 20,” head of the national crisis management cell Brigadier Javed Cheema said. “Many others are injured,” added interior secretary Syed Kamal Shah.

Police cordoned off the scene after the explosion at about 0620 GMT, while emergency services worked at the scene and ambulances ferried the dead and injured to hospital.

“The congregation was in progress, around 400 people were there, when a man walked in and started towards the stage where a Shiite leader was delivering a sermon,” Amjad said. “When the man got close to the stage there was a big explosion and there was panic all around.” Television footage showed worshippers wailing and beating themselves after the blast. Thousands of minority Shiite and majority Sunni Muslims have been killed in Pakistan in sectarian violence through bomb blasts, suicide bombing and in targeted killings suicide in recent years. The Sunni custodian of the shrine and two others were shot dead near the compound in February. Early this month police said they had killed the suspects behind the custodian’s death. Both sects claim the shrine is theirs but has been controlled by Sunnis for the past two decades. The shrine is dedicated to Sufi Muslim saint Shah Abdul Latif Kazimi, known as Bari Imam, who helped bring Islam to the region. Each year in May, worshippers gather at the shrine.