Bombs kill 25 during Pakistan march
Three bombs have ripped through a Shiite Muslim religious procession in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, killing 25 people and wounding about 150 others, officials said.
The explosions appeared to be the latest in a string of attacks by Sunni extremists against the minority Shiites they consider infidels. Allied with al-Qaida and the Taliban, the bombers are also seeking to destabilise Pakistan's US-backed government.
The blasts were the first major attacks since Pakistan was hit by devastating floods more than a month ago. Lahore, the country's political capital and home to much of its military elite, has been regularly targeted by militants over the past two years.
The bombs exploded at three separate sites as 35,000 Shiites marched through the streets of Lahore in their traditional mourning procession for the caliph Ali, one of Shiite Islam's most respected holy men.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the blasts in a statement and said the attackers would not escape justice.
After the blasts, the marchers erupted in fury, setting fire to a police station, another police facility, two police cars and three motorcycles, said Zulfiqar Hameed, a senior police officer. Police lobbed tear gas canisters at the crowd and fired shots in the air to disperse the assailants, he said.
The first blast was a time bomb that exploded in the street near a well-known Shiite building, Hameed said. Footage of that explosion shown on Geo television showed a small blast erupting amid a crowd of people on the street followed by a large plume of smoke. Hundreds of people fled from the blast, while others rushed to carry the wounded to safety.
Minutes later, with the streets in chaos, a male suicide bomber who appeared to be about 18 years old tried to force his way into an area where food was being prepared for the marchers to break the traditional Ramadan fast and exploded, Hameed said. Soon after, another suicide bomber detonated himself at an intersection near the end of the procession.
Abbas Kumaili, a prominent Shiite scholar as well as a senator, called for three days of mourning over the attack and lashed out at the bombers.
"They are our enemies, both Shiites and Sunnis should remain united and foil their evil designs," he said.