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Bomb blast at Rawalpindi imambargah kills 8, injures 16

Updated January 09, 2015

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A Shia Muslim mourns over the death of his family member at the site of a blast in Rawalpindi on Jan 9, 2015. – AP
A Shia Muslim mourns over the death of his family member at the site of a blast in Rawalpindi on Jan 9, 2015. – AP
A police officer and local residents gather next to a damaged motorcycle at the site of a blast in Rawalpindi on Jan 9, 2015. – AP
A police officer and local residents gather next to a damaged motorcycle at the site of a blast in Rawalpindi on Jan 9, 2015. – AP

RAWALPINDI: A powerful blast rattled an imambargah in a densely populated area of Rawalpindi on Friday, killing at least eight people and injuring at least 16 others.

DawnNews reported that the blast took place outside Imambargah Aun Mohammad Rizvi in Chatian Hatian area of Rawalpindi, also damaging the building. An Eid Miladun Nabi (PBUH) congregation was being observed at the imambargah at the time of the blast.

Police officer Raja Abdul Rasheed told AP that the explosion targeted the mosque affiliated with Shia Muslims.

Rasheed said the explosion also wounded 16 people. He said authorities believe the bomber tried to go into the imambargah. When he was stopped at the entrance, he blew himself up outside.

“The nature of explosion is immediately unclear but it may be a suicide attack,” Muhammad Salim, a local police official, told AFP.

However, the Bomb Disposal Squad later ruled that explosive material was detonated outside the imambargah and it was not a 'suicide blast'.

“I can see complete chaos. No more details are available at this moment, but there are dead bodies and injured people inside the imambargah,” he said.

However, the Bomb Disposal Squad later ruled that explosive material was detonated outside the imambargah and it was not a 'suicide blast'.

Eyewitnesses said the explosion was powerful and blew out windows.

“There was a huge bang,” one eyewitness, Sadia Widad, told AFP from the area. “The injured are being taken out of the mosque on carts because ambulances are unable to enter the narrow street.”

At least four bodies had been brought to the District Headquarters Hospital (DHQ), where an emergency had been imposed, hospital sources said.

Several people were also injured in the explosion, with rescue workers saying the number of casualties was expected to rise.

Two policemen, who were posted on security duty outside the Imambargah, were also among the injured.

Nobody has yet claimed responsibility but militants linked to the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Al Qaeda have targeted the country's Shia minority in the past.

A bomb targeting Shias at a volleyball match killed at least five people and injured 10 in Pakistan's restive northwest last Sunday.

The incident happened at the Hussaini ground, owned by the local Shia community in the Kalaya neighbourhood of the Orakzai tribal district.

Pakistan has strengthened its own offensive against the Taliban since their attack on a military-run school on December 16 killed 150 people, 134 of them children.

Strongly condemning the terrorist attack, Majis Wahdatul Maslimeen (MWM) leader Allama Nasir Abbas said that there was a need to carry out military operations against the terrorists throughout the country.

He urged the military leadership to expand the scope of ongoing military offensives in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

Security has been put on a high alert in Rawalpindi and Islamabad following the attack at the imambargah.

Speaking to DawnNews, Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed condemned the incident, urging the masses to form neighbourhood committees to oversee suspicious activities.

Criticising the government, he said law enforcement forces have failed to protect lives and properties of common citizens.

Condemning the incident, MWM chief Allama Raja Nasir said that Shia Muslims are being killed across the country and the state’s writ is being challenged by the terrorists, but the rulers are not willing to address the issue of extremism.

According to Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, he said, every tenth madrassa is being used to promote terrorism and hatred against religious minorities. Nasir said today’s attack indicates that terrorists are present everywhere in the country.

Meanwhile, taking notice of the incident, Interior Minister Chaudry Nisar has ordered the IGP Punjab to launch a probe into the incident.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif and Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar have also condemned the attack.