Death toll from Karachi bombing reaches 40

2009-12-29 10:46

 

AUTHORITIES appealed for calm today as the death toll from

yesterday’s bombing against a Shiite Muslim procession in Pakistan’s largest

city, Karachi, increased to 40.

The bombing against the procession marking the key holy day of

Ashoura, a month-long mourning period for the 7th century death of the prophet

Muhammad’s grandson, Imam Hussein, was the third explosion in as many days to

hit Karachi, although authorities attributed a blast that wounded 30 people on

Sunday to a build up of gas in a sewage pipe.

Protests broke out after that

blast too, with Shiites torching at least three vehicles.

On Saturday another blast near a Shiite procession wounded 19

people. Authorities attributed that explosion to a firecracker that was so

powerful it left a crater in the road.

Yesterday’s bombing also sparked riots as people rampaged through

the city, setting fire to markets and stores.

As firefighters battled the flames

authorities called for reinforcements from the city of Hyderabad, 170kms north

of Karachi.

Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal said the city’s largest wholesale

market and hundreds of shops had been destroyed, with damages estimated to run

into millions of dollars.

Interior minister Rehman Malik, who visited Karachi today, appealed

for calm.

“If anyone is trying to cripple Karachi then he is also trying to

cripple Pakistan,” the minister said.

Karachi has largely been spared the Taliban-linked violence that

has struck much of the rest of the country, a fact that analysts believe is

driven by the group’s tendency to use the teeming metropolis as a place to rest

and raise money.

But the city has been the scene of frequent sectarian, ethnic

and political violence.

It was unclear who was behind yesterday’s bombing. Pakistani

authorities said sectarian groups had teamed up with Taliban and al-Qaeda

militants waging war against the government in a joint effort to destabilise

Pakistan.

More than 500 people have been killed in attacks since mid-October,

when the army launched a major anti-Taliban offensive in the country’s

northwest.

“A deliberate attempt seems to be afoot by the extremists to turn

the fight against militants into a sectarian clash and make the people fight

against one another,” said President Asif Ali Zardari in a statement

yesterday.

Minority Shiites have suffered frequent attacks by Sunni extremist

groups, who regard them as heretical.

Malik appealed to the Shiite community to cancel processions for

the next two days.


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