THREE bombs ripped through a Shi’ite Muslim religious procession in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore yesterday, killing 25 people and wounding about 150 others, officials said.
The explosions appeared to be the latest in a string of attacks by Sunni extremists against the minority Shi’ites they consider infidels. Allied with al-Qaida and the Taliban, the bombers are also seeking to destabilise Pakistan’s US-backed government.
The blasts were the first major attacks since Pakistan was hit by devastating floods more than a month ago.
The bombs exploded at three separate sites as 35,000 Shi’ites marched through the streets of Lahore in their traditional mourning procession for the caliph Ali, one of Shi’ite Islam’s most respected holy men.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the blasts in a statement and said the attackers would not escape justice.
After the blasts, the marchers erupted in fury, setting fire to a police station, another police facility, two police cars and three motorcycles, said Zulfiqar Hameed, a senior police officer. Police lobbed tear gas canisters at the crowd and fired shots in the air to disperse the assailants, he said.
The first blast was a time bomb that exploded in the street near a well-known Shi’ite building, Hameed said.
Minutes later a male suicide bomber tried to force his way into an area where food was being prepared for the marchers and exploded, Hameed said. Soon after, another suicide bomber detonated himself at an intersection near the end of the procession.
Meanwhile, a bomb exploded near a police vehicle in Shabqadar in north-west Pakistan, killing one passer-by and wounding 15 people including one police officer.
The bombings came after Pakistan army jets and helicopters targeted militant hideouts near the Afghan border, killing 60 people identified as insurgents or their family members, including children.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved