Bomb blasts hit imambargahs
* 20 killed, dozens injured as three explosions rock two imambargahs in Karachi and Rawalpindi
* Media workers, rescue and law enforcement officials among those injured
KARACHI/RAWALPINDI: At least 20 people were killed and scores others injured in bomb blasts near imambargahs in Karachi and Rawalpindi on Wednesday.
In Karachi, three people were killed and 20 others injured in twin blasts occurring within an hour near an imambargah in Sector 5 of Orangi Town area. The blasts occurred despite the government imposing a ban on riding or parking a motorcycle within half a kilometre from imambargahs in the city. The injured included a minor, journalists, media reporters and law enforcers. Three vehicles were also damaged in the blasts.
According to witnesses of the first blast, a suicide bomber on a motorbike tried to hit Jamma Masjid Haider-e-Qaqar in Orangi Town, but instead bumped into a rickshaw near the imambargah and caused a huge blast. Resultantly, three people, including nearby shopkeepers, were killed and at least seven others injured.
DIG West Javed Odho told a private TV channel the explosives were planted on a motorcycle that blew up with a loud blast. He said the target of the attack could have been the imambargah but the motorcycle collided with a rickshaw before reaching the target.
The injured and bodies were shifted to Qater Hospital and Abbasi Shaheed Hospital for autopsies and treatment. Nearby shops were partially damaged in the explosion. A heavy contingent of law enforcement agencies, police, Bomb Disposal Squad and rescue workers rushed to the spot and cordoned off the crime scene.
Devotees present in the imambargah and neighbouring areas rushed to the site and chanted slogans against the authorities and blamed the attack on lack of security. Subsequent firing was also reported in the Shia-dominated area and unidentified people forcibly shut down commercial and routine businesses while angry protesters also pelted stones on vehicles passing by.
Secretary general of the Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen, Allama Nasir Abbas Jaffery, condemned the blast, adding the attack highlighted the failure of the government to protect the Shia community. He also demanded the government deploy army during the main procession on the 9th and 10th of Muharram.
The second blast occurred then the injured and bodies were being taken to hospital and BDS experts were sweeping the site, injuring at least 13, including rescue workers, media reporters and law enforcers.
BDS officials said the first bomb weighed around five kilogrammes and the second blast was caused by a low-intensity remote-controlled improvised explosives device (IED) near the site of the first blast, adding ball bearings were used to cause maximum damage.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either attack.
Meanwhile, in Rawalpindi, 17 people were killed and several others injured in a suicide blast at a Muharram procession near an imambargah in Dhoke Sayedan area on Wednesday night.
The suicide blast occurred near Qasr-e-Shabbir Imambargah on Misrial Road as a suicide bomber entered into the Muharram procession and detonated the explosives strapped to his body, sources said. A hand grenade was been recovered from the blast site.
Police said 25 people were wounded, including children. The attack came hours after two bomb blasts killed at least three people near a gathering of Shia gathering in Karachi.
Rescue and emergency teams kicked off services while ambulances shifted the injured to District Headquarters Hospitals (DHQ).
Due to area being heavily populated, rescue workers were reported to be facing difficulties. The Misrial Road area was put on high alert by the authorities during the holy month of Muharram.
Emergency was declared at all hospitals of the city. Police and other security agencies cordoned off the area.
President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf strongly condemned the bomb blasts. The president sought a report of the incident from the officials concerned.
The leaders prayed for the departed souls and courage for bereaved families to bear the loss with fortitude. They also directed the authorities to provide best medical treatment to the injured.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the attacks were designed to create the impression that the government is incapable of providing adequate security for the D8 Summit. “We are trying to build relationships, get investment in Pakistan and these groups are trying to derail the process,” he told Reuters. staff report/agencies