35 die in Pakistan blasts

2010-07-01 23:47
Lahore - At least two suicide bombers attacked a popular Muslim shrine in the Pakistan city of Lahore late Thursday night, killing 35 people and wounding 175 others, the city's top official said.

The attackers struck as thousands of people were visiting the Data Darabar shrine, where a famous Sufi saint is buried. Islamic extremists consider Sufis to be heretics and have often targeted them in attacks.

The first suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a large underground room where visitors sleep and wash themselves before praying, said Khusro Pervez, the top government official in Lahore.

Minutes later, a second bomber detonated his explosives in a large yard upstairs as people tried to flee the first attack, he said.

Police are still investigating the source of a third blast that followed the two suicide bombers.

At least 25 of those wounded in the attacks are in critical condition, said Pervez.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings.

Recent violence

Lahore is Pakistan's second-largest city and capital of its most prosperous province, Punjab. It is a key political, military, and cultural center and has been the scene of some of the most spectacular Islamic militant attacks in the country over the past year.

On May 28, gunmen and a suicide squad lobbed grenades and sprayed bullets in attacks on two mosques in the eastern city packed with worshippers from the minority Ahmadi sect. At least 93 people were killed and dozens wounded.

The government has been criticized for lacking the will to crack down on militants in Punjab, many of whom are part of now-banned groups started with government support in the 1980s and '90s to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan and pressure archenemy India.

Many of these groups have formed links with the Pakistani Taliban, which has recruited militants to carry out attacks in parts of Pakistan far from its sanctuary in the northwest near Afghanistan.

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