PESHAWAR: A bomb blast killed eight people Saturday near a Muharram procession in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Dera Ismail Khan district despite a security crackdown, the latest attack on Shias during the holy month.
Four boys were among the dead and 30 other people were injured when the remote-controlled bomb packed with ball bearings exploded on the outskirts of Dera Ismail Khan, police said.
Police said a 10-kilogramme bomb was hidden in a dustbin on the procession route and its powerful blast could be heard several kilometres away.
According to a Dawn.com correspondent, a bomb-disposal squad personnel confirmed that eight to ten kilograms of explosive material was used in the blast.
Seven people, including the four children, died soon after the blast and a man died later Saturday from his wounds in hospital, hospital officials told AFP.
“Two are still in critical condition,” said doctor Azhar Ali, deputy chief of Nishtar Hospital in the central city of Multan.
Akhtar Nawaz, another official at the state-run district headquarters hospital said three children were dead on arrival.
City police chief Khalid Suhail said the dead children were aged between six and 11 years. “They were young boys,” he said, adding that two of them were brothers.
Political leaders, including President Asif Ali Zardari, have condemned the blast.
Taliban claim responsibility
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast on Saturday.
“We carried out the attack against the Shia community,” Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location after the explosion on the outskirts of Dera Ismail Khan.
He said the Taliban had dispatched more than 20 suicide bombers across the country for attacks against the minority community.
“We have 20-25 fidayeen (suicide bombers) in the country to launch bomb blasts and suicide attacks,” Ehsan said.
“The government can make whatever security arrangements it wants but it cannot stop our attacks.”
Saturday’s blast follows a suicide attack that killed 23 people at a Shia procession in the garrison city of Rawalpindi Thursday, Pakistan’s deadliest bombing for five months. It was also claimed by the Pakistani Taliban.
Authorities have ordered heightened security, with services for mobile phones – which are often used to trigger bombs – suspended in major cities.
Mobile and wireless phone services were temporarily blocked in the commercial capital Karachi, the southwestern city of Quetta and several cities and towns in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces as well as in parts of the capital Islamabad.
It is the second time Pakistan has shut down mobile networks during Muharram.
Dera Ismail Khan lies near Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal belt, where Taliban and al Qaeda-linked militants are said to have carved out strongholds.
It also borders the insurgency-hit southwestern province of Balochistan and populous Punjab province.
Intelligence information indicates more attacks have been planned for the coming days in the capital city of Islamabad, Karachi and Quetta.
In Karachi, more than 5,000 police are expected to patrol the streets during Muharram events over the next two days, with hundreds more on alert.