PESHAWAR, Nov 25 — A bomb killed at least four people and wounded dozens near a Shi’ite procession in Pakistan today, police said, as the sect braced for major attacks by Sunni militants during a critical event in their religious calendar.
Television footage of the blast site showed the wounded being carried away in the northwestern city of Dera Ismail Khan, where a bomb targeting Shi’ites killed at least seven people, including four children, on Saturday.
“Four bodies have been shipped here and more than three dozen are wounded. The death toll will likely rise because many of the injuries are serious,” said Khalid Aziz Baloch, a doctor at a district hospital.
Hardline sectarian Sunni groups, which are becoming increasingly dangerous, have threatened more attacks as the Shi’ite morning month of Muharram comes to a climax on Sunday.
Security officials say organisations such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ)are stepping up attacks on Shi’ites, who they regard as non-believers, in a bid to destabilise nuclear-armed, US ally Pakistan and establish a Sunni theocracy.
Al Qaeda, which is close to LeJ, pushed Iraq to the brink of a sectarian civil war several years ago with large-scale suicide bombings of Shi’ites.
More than 300 Shi’ites have been killed in Pakistan so far this year in sectarian conflict, according to human rights groups. The campaign is gathering pace in rural as well as urban areas such as Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city.
Shi’ites account for up to 20 per cent of this nation of 180 million. — Reuters