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Blasts kill 8 at Sufi shrine in Pakistan

No one claims responsibility for the attacks in Karachi, which injured 65. Militants have targeted shrines and mosques serving adherents of non-orthodox Muslim doctrines.

October 08, 2010|By Alex Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Islamabad — Two suicide bombers attacked crowds visiting a Sufi Muslim shrine Thursday night in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, killing at least eight people and wounding 65 in an attack that reminded the nation of extremists' ability to strike virtually at will.

The blasts appeared to be timed for when crowds are largest at a shrine for Abdullah Shah Ghazi, an 8th century saint of the Sufi mystical strain of Islam. The shrine, which draws people from across the city and the rest of Sindh province, gets its biggest crowds on Thursday nights.

Television video showed pools of blood on the shrine's concrete floors and wailing children in bloodied tunics being rushed to hospitals.

President Asif Ali Zardari, who was in Karachi on Thursday, condemned the attack.

"The relentless attacks on ordinary Pakistani citizens by those who want to impose an extremist mind-set and lifestyle upon our country will not deter our government," said one of Zardari's top aides, Farahnaz Ispahani. "We remain committed to fighting these murderers and expelling them from our land."

Authorities in Karachi said the bombers detonated their explosives outside the shrine's main entrance, where visitors must pass through an electronic security gate. Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza said all shrines in Karachi will be shut for three months.

No one had claimed responsibility for the attacks as of Thursday evening.

However, shrines and mosques serving Muslim sects and groups opposed by militants have been frequent targets of the Pakistani Taliban, the country's homegrown insurgency, and Sunni Muslim extremist groups like Sipah-e-Sahaba.

In July, twin suicide blasts killed 42 people visiting Pakistan's most popular Sufi shrine, Data Darbar, in the eastern city of Lahore. And in May, a team of gunmen and suicide bombers killed 93 people in attacks on two mosques belonging to the minority Ahmadi sect.

Islamic militant groups regard the Sufi strain of Islam to be tantamount to heresy. Several terrorist attacks this year have also targeted the country's Shiite Muslim minority.

alex.rodriguez@latimes.com

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