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24 killed in suicide attack in Pakistan

February 06, 2009|Associated Press

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — A man blew himself up Thursday among worshipers streaming toward a Shiite mosque in central Pakistan, killing 24 people and wounding 40.

The attack in the city of Dera Ghazi Khan, in Punjab province, could spark sectarian fury in a country already battling rising militancy along the border with Afghanistan and at odds with India over a November terrorist attack in Mumbai.

Television channels showed bystanders and emergency workers trying frantically to help victims lying in the darkened street.

Athar Mubarak, the city police chief, said the bomb contained metal balls and nails.

Hasan Iqbal, the city's top administrator, wouldn't say whether he thought Sunni extremists carried out the attack, and there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

However, relations between this Muslim nation's strong Sunni majority and Shiite minority have been tested by a series of attacks attributed to sectarian extremists.

Much of the violence has been in the northwest, where the Taliban and other Sunni militants have gained ground.

In the deadliest recent incident, a December car bombing killed 29 people and wounded scores near a Shiite mosque in Peshawar, capital of North-West Frontier Province. Elsewhere in the province, a grenade attack at a Sunni mosque in Dera Ismail Khan killed at least one person Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a suicide attacker detonated an explosives-laden car near a police station in Mingora, the main town in Pakistan's Swat Valley, wounding a dozen officers and destroying part of the building, said Dilawar Khan Bangash, the police chief.

Bangash said militants fired three rockets before the blast and that one damaged a hotel.

Pakistan is under pressure to clamp down on Islamist extremist groups, including one suspected by archrival India and Western nations of orchestrating the November attacks in the Indian financial hub of Mumbai in which 173 people died, including nine assailants.

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