MUZAFFARABAD, Dec 27 A suicide bomber blew himself up amid a Muharram procession on Sunday evening, killing seven people, three policemen among them, and injuring 65 others, police and witnesses said.
The teenaged bomber detonated his suicide jacket as the small procession from Neelam valley's Mirpura village was passing through a security barrier at the entry point to a street off the CMH Road that leads to Imambargah Pir Alam Shah Bukhari.
Electricity supply was suspended and windowpanes of a drug store along the road were smashed by the impact of the huge blast. Some motorcycles parked nearby were damaged.
“As the police and volunteers were frisking people at the first security checkpoint, the bomber blew himself up in the crowd a few yards from the barrier,” said Khwaja Tanveer, owner of a badly damaged medical store.
“A cloud of dust and subsequent power cut reduced visibility amid screams of the injured,” he added.
The victims were taken to the Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan Hospital, across the place of the attack.
The head and limbs of the bomber were strewn over a radius of about 20 yards.
Muzaffarabad DIG Shaikh Tahir Qayyum told journalists that seven people were killed and 65 others injured, 10 of them in serious condition.
He said that seven of the dead were Shia volunteers and the rest were policemen - two constables from the district police and a constable of the special branch.
The dead were identified as Amir Naqvi, Asmat Shah, Mahmood Shah, Mohsin Shaikh and policemen Syed Shahzad Kazmi, Ibrar and Khurshid.
However, AJK Minister for Housing and Physical Planning Syed Murtaza Gillani told newsmen outside the hospital that nine or 10 people had lost their lives.
“I have seen at least 9 or 10 bodies whereas the number of injured persons is between 30 and 40,” he said.
Mufti Kifayat Hussain Naqvi, a senior religious leader, condemned the suicide attack and said the perpetrator was linked to the same elements who were carrying out such ghastly acts across the country. “I have been receiving condolences from people of all shades of life and together with them we will frustrate the designs of enemies of Islam and Pakistan,” he said.
AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider went to the imambargah and offered condolences to the community leaders and the bereaved families.
He condemned the blast and announced a compensation of Rs200,000 each for dependants of those killed in the terrorist act. The government would bear all expenses on the treatment of the injured, he said.
Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani phoned Mr Haider and offered condolences, according to an official spokesman.
AFP adds “It was a suicide attack,” said Chaudhry Imtiaz, deputy commissioner.
“This is the third suicide attack in (Azad) Kashmir. The whole country is under threat and we are facing the same situation. We have taken extraordinary security measures,” Mr Qayyum said.