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Pakistani Mosque Bombed; 16 Killed

The government says the attack in Karachi against Shiite Muslims may have been revenge for the slaying of a Sunni cleric a day earlier.

June 01, 2004|From Times Wire Services

KARACHI, Pakistan — A bomb ripped through a Shiite Muslim mosque here during evening prayers Monday, killing at least 16 people, wounding 38 and sparking mob violence a day after Sunni Muslims had rioted over the slaying of a Sunni cleric.

Interior Ministry spokesman Abdur Rauf Chaudhry said the bombing might have been a reaction to Sunday's slaying of Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai, who was a supporter of neighboring Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime and had met Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

After the explosion Monday at the Imam Bargah Ali Raza mosque, hundreds of Shiite youths burned shops and vehicles and blocked highways and the main rail line.

Police official Kamal Shah said two men trying to steal an ambulance were shot and killed. Seven others were injured when police opened fire with tear gas and bullets to disperse the crowd.

Wailing men and women searched in the darkness for relatives believed buried in rubble under the mosque's cracked dome.

The blast cracked walls, destroyed an inner office and badly damaged a room where people wash up before praying at the mosque, near the city center on Karachi's main highway.

Police official Asad Ashraf Malik said one of the bodies retrieved from the scene was being examined to determine whether it was that of a suicide bomber.

A worshiper inside the mosque, Ghulam Ali, said he thought a bomb had been thrown inside from a passing car.

Said fruit vendor Ghulam Hussain: "I heard a big explosion, followed by flames from the front of the mosque. And I saw two injured people falling on the road, bleeding, and one had no legs."

Police have formed a task force to investigate the slaying of Shamzai, who was in his 70s.

Witnesses said his assassins included as many as six gunmen riding in two cars and on a motorcycle. They sprayed Shamzai's car with bullets Sunday morning, killing him and wounding one of his sons, a nephew, his driver and a guard.

Karachi, Pakistan's largest city and the country's commercial center, has been the scene of other recent sectarian violence and terrorist attacks. Those include two car bombings near the U.S. consul's residence last week and a May 7 suicide bombing at a Shiite Muslim mosque that killed 20 people.

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