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Attack on Pakistani Shiite Muslims kills five, injures 70

November 25, 2012|By Alex Rodriguez
  • Pakistani security officials check the site of a bomb blast in Dera Ismail Khan.
Pakistani security officials check the site of a bomb blast in Dera Ismail… (Kashif Naveed / Associated…)

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A bomb blast in northwest Pakistan killed five people and injured 70 others Sunday, provincial and local authorities said, the latest in a wave of attacks that have struck the country’s minority Shiite Muslim community despite a host of stringent security measures, including wide-scale cellphone service bans and prohibitions on motorcycle riding in several cities.

The attack in Dera Ismail Khan was the second to strike the city of 119,000 this weekend and the fourth in five days directed at Shiite Muslims as they commemorate the anniversary of the 7th century martyrdom of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the prophet Muhammad. A remote-controlled bomb planted in a shop exploded as a procession of Shiite Muslims passed by, police said.  

On Saturday in Dera Ismail Khan, seven people were killed and 26 others injured by a remote-controlled bomb buried under a pile of garbage that exploded while a Shiite Muslim procession moved past. Shiite Muslims commemorate Imam Hussein’s death with large processions that wend their way through cramped neighborhoods in dozens of Pakistani cities, creating a formidable challenge for police assigned to provide security for the mourners.

No one had claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack, though suspicion immediately focused on the Pakistani Taliban, the country’s homegrown insurgency. The group had previously said it was behind the wave of violence against Shiite Muslims earlier in the week. The Shiite Muslim community remains a prime target for the Pakistani Taliban and other Sunni militant groups, which regard Shiite Muslims as heretics.

In one of the earlier attacks this week, a suicide bomber slipped into a procession of more than 150 Shiite Muslims late Wednesday in the garrison city of Rawalpindi and detonated his explosives-filled vest, killing 23 people and injuring 62 others, according to Rawalpindi police. Earlier on Wednesday, militants detonated two bombs outside a Shiite mosque in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, killing two people and injuring 12 others.

Anticipating a spike in attacks, Pakistani officials late last week announced a series of restrictions aimed at curbing violence against Shiite Muslims.

Cellphone service was suspended in dozens of Pakistani cities over the weekend, a measure aimed at preventing the use of cellphones as remote-control detonators. Because assailants often use motorcycles to carry out attacks, motorcycle riding was banned in Islamabad, the capital, and the southern cities of Hyderabad and Quetta. The Pakistani newspaper Express-Tribune reported that the northwest town of Haripur imposed a 15-day ban on the wearing of shawls and coats to prevent would-be attackers from hiding explosives and other weapons.

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